Updated: 13 February 2019
These routes are both public roads, partly tarmac and partly unsealed. As such pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, motorcyclists, and motorists can use their whole length. The roads were originally well-built stone roads that served agricultural and quarrying activities and, as such, form part of the historic heritage of the area.
During the past 20 years or so, motor vehicular usage of both these roads has increased. At the same time, minor maintenance of the surface and drainage appears to have declined, and there have been at least three severe weather incidents (2005, 2009, 2015). The combination of all this has led to a deterioration in the surface of the Tilberthwaite road in particular, to a degree where some agricultural traffic was having difficulties in accessing the land for farming purposes.
In 2017 we initiated a project to look at the future management options for these two unsealed roads. We are delivering this project in conjunction with Cumbria County Council and the National Trust (who own the farms and surrounding land), and are on target to report to our Rights of Way Committee in October 2019. The Committee will decide whether we should look to pursue a Traffic Regulation Order or a different management measure.
The two roads are shown on the map below in red and blue:
They are both public through roads, with around half of their length being tarmac, and half being unsealed, that is: not tarmac covered. Both tarmac and unsealed sections are covered by the same highway legislation as other public roads such as the A593 or Wrynose Pass. They are maintained by Cumbria County Council. Although the National Park has no legal responsibility to maintain these roads, we recognise their importance as part of the overall rights of way network that people use to enjoy the national park. The roads are part tarmac, and part unsealed, however, we are being requested to restrict motorised traffic only on the unsealed sections of these two roads.
In the Lake District National Park, there are some 3280km of public unsealed minor roads, byways open to all traffic, restricted byways, bridleways and footpaths. There are legally established, or presumed, motor vehicle rights on around 121km of these.
The unsealed section of the Tilberthwaite road is 2.5km, whereas the unsealed section of the High Oxen Fell road is 0.59km long. The combined length of around 3.1km of road is approximately 0.1% of the unsealed linear network.
Motor vehicular usage of both these roads has increased over the last 20 years or so.
At the same time, minor maintenance of the surface and drainage appears to have declined, and there have been at least three severe weather incidents (2005, 2009, 2015). The combination of all this has led to a deterioration in the surface of the Tilberthwaite road in particular, to a degree where some agricultural traffic was having difficulties in accessing the land for farming purposes.
A campaign group, Save the Lake District, has asked us to make a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) prohibiting motor vehicles on the unsealed portions of these roads. As a National Park Authority, we have been granted powers to prohibit traffic on unsealed public roads of this nature (Defra guidance on this can be found here)
The issues of concern raised by campaigners include:
The Tilberthwaite road was fully surveyed and many surface issues were identified for repair works. As a result the road has been resurfaced for the first time in many decades.
The High Oxen Fell road has been surveyed, and Cumbria County Council, ourselves and the National Trust consider that it is suitable for the current use, and we will continue to monitor the route. The surface remains fairly stable, and the landowners and tenant farmer do not wish any improvements to be made. We have not received any complaints from walkers or riders about the usability of the road.
In 2017 we initiated a project to look at the future management options for these two unsealed roads. A summary of the project plan, with progress to date, is contained within the briefing note on the future management of these roads.
We are delivering this project in conjunction with Cumbria County Council and the National Trust (who own the farms and surrounding land), and are on target to report to our Rights of Way Committee in October 2019. The Committee will decide whether we should look to pursue a Traffic Regulation Order or a different management measure.
Now we have completed the practical works to repair the Tilberthwaite road, we are collecting further evidence from road users and information on the impact of motor vehicular use on their enjoyment of the roads and the area, and the impacts on aspects such as natural beauty, tranquillity and amenity.
The October 2019 our Rights of Way Committee will consider a number of management options for the two public roads, and will make a decision on which to adopt based on the information gathered during the current process. Whatever is decided will then be implemented.
If Members decide to pursue an option involving some form of traffic regulation, we are then legally obliged to carry out a formal consultation process about the specific regulation proposed. The matter would then return to a future Committee in 2020 for a final decision on whether to make the proposed TRO or not. If a TRO is then made, it can come into effect relatively soon.
A TRO allows all or some types of traffic, including 4x4s and motorbikes, but also pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, to be legally prevented from using a public route permanently, partly or occasionally. However there has to be grounds for doing so, based on facts and evidence, not just opinions or perceptions.
Applying TROs is a last resort for us, following guidance from Government. We want to work with interested parties to find ways to manage the issues without resorting to legal action if we can.
Consequently it takes time to carry out a programme of monitoring and surveying of the route, the numbers and types of users of the route, and the attitude of different user types to each other. This process must be robust and complete, especially as it is likely that a decision to apply, or not apply, a TRO on the route may be appealed through the courts.
The Defra guidance stresses that other management options to a TRO should be investigated before making a TRO. These options, the grounds for making one and what it can control are detailed in the briefing note on the future management of these roads
Using a road in contravention of a TRO is a criminal offence under the Road Traffic Regulation Act, and is a matter for the Police to enforce.
We do not believe the current use of these roads conflicts with the Lake District’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status. In inscribing the Lake District as a World Heritage Site, UNESCO accepted our management approach to the national park, and recognised that our status as a national park already gives the highest level of protection to the landscape.
We are aware of the concerns raised by World Heritage Watch (an independent campaigning group with no official links to UNESCO) and have submitted a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) to the UK Government’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and UNESCO to report on the level of impact by road users. UNESCO has responded to DCMS acknowledge this HIA and that it concludes that these disturbances are localised and temporary, and therefore they do not seriously impact the OUV of the property in the long term. Read this letter.
We are taking into account some people’s concerns about the impact on the tranquillity and landscape beauty they hope to enjoy whilst using these roads and surrounding area. The extent of these concerns vary widely from person to person. We will use the National Park’s Special Qualities, along with Landscape Character Assessment, World Heritage Site Valley Descriptions and the Sandford principle to help us evaluate the impact of activities taking place on these roads. This will be done whilst also considering the rights of others using the roads. Find out more about the Special Qualities and Outstanding Universal Values of the valleys in the briefing note on the future management of these roads
We envisage the robust and structured approach to the future management of the Tilberthwaite and High Oxen Fells roads as helping advise the Authority when considering future issues arising on other unsealed roads in the National Park.
Prohibiting motor vehicles from using these two roads would not necessarily reduce carbon emissions, as those vehicles could continue to access the rest of the public road network.
To find out more about this project, please read the briefing note on the future management of these roads
Photos show part of the Tilberthwaite road before and after the maintenance work was completed in January 2019.
In mid-February 2019 we will be gathering further information and evidence through a survey, which will be available on this webpage. This evidence will then be considered by our Rights of Way Committee in October 2019 who will make a decision on the most appropriate way to manage these roads.
Drop-in sessions have been arranged to give the community the chance to informally discuss the track and view photos and maps should they wish to before completing the online survey.