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A precious public ‘green road’ has been protected by user groups combining efforts to resist Gloucestershire County Council’s application to a magistrates’ court to extinguish public rights over Hanover Green Road.
Cheltenham magistrates found the track to be necessary for the public to use, particularly on foot and by motorcycle, and therefore could not extinguish the rights on the basis that it was not needed for public use.
Gloucestershire County Council, as the highway authority subject to a duty to assert and protect public interests to enjoy the highway and keep it free from obstruction, made the application to extinguish public rights at the request of a landowner responsible for obstructing it.
In finding that the route was necessary for public use, Cheltenham magistrates accepted it was being used by the public and would be used more if the unlawful obstructions were cleared.
Ramblers, the Open Spaces Society, and the Trail Riders Fellowship jointly instructed lawyers to argue the public case at court. Cycling UK helpfully reinforced with a written representation.
User groups were disappointed and surprised that the highway authority made the application at all, in the face of evidence of use, unlawful obstructions, and requests to clear the obstructions.
Rural ‘green roads’, suitable for recreation, are an ever-diminishing resource and, in the case of Hanover Green as a public route with an unsealed surface, a finite resource. Such rural public routes are being lost to tarmac and other similar improvements for high-speed traffic, under-recording of highway status, and development of infrastructure and housing.
Jack Cornish, head of paths at the Ramblers, said: ‘The route is an unspoiled wooded track within an ancient holloway. The Ramblers are delighted that the magistrates found it to be a necessary and integral part of the surrounding network of paths, bridleways, and roads. Quiet footpath-type green roads like this are important for walking and other forms of recreation. This decision will ensure the route is there for future generations to enjoy.’
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, added: ‘We are pleased that the magistrates’ court recognised the heritage and utility value of this route, and of such highways in general. Unsurfaced roads are an important part of the recreational highway network, providing a means of access to the countryside for all. This is increasingly relevant to physical and mental well-being. We also hope that this sends a clear message to highway authorities and landowners that the unlawful obstruction of a highway cannot be used as an excuse to justify the stopping-up of the public’s rights to use it.’
John Vannuffel, of Trail Riders Fellowship, said: We welcome magistrates accepting our evidence of motorcycle use and recognising the value of such green roads to the public for motorcycling and other similarly traditional and appropriate uses.’
 Gloucestershire County council made the application to the magistrates’ court under section 116 of the Highways Act 1980, which is the mechanism for stopping up or diverting routes with vehicular rights.
 The 215-metre-long route runs south-west from the A417 four miles south-east of Ledbury in Herefordshire, just south of the M50 crossing, at grid reference 759 324.
 Chloe Karamian, Heidi Copland, and Jack Boyle of DMH Stallard LLP. Giles Atkinson and Noemi Byrd of 6 Pump Court Chambers.