Motorised access in the countryside is an emotive and complicated subject. The demand for using motorised propelled vehicles (MPVs) recreationally has never been higher, and the various demands range from using un-sealed highways to off-road sites whether it is by 4x4 or motorcycle.
To give a strategic approach across Wales the Welsh Off-Road Motorcycle Steering Group (WORMS) was set up in 2005, which has now been renamed as the Welsh Off-Road Motoring Steering Group. This is an important group to enable the various agencies to collaborate and draw up a framework to provide consistent guidance across Wales.
A three pronged approach was adopted by WORMS in 2005 and still stands today, which consists of Provision, Education and Enforcement. These approaches should be considered as being mutually inclusive in the management of motorised access in the countryside.
This can come in a multitude of different forms depending on what you want to do. The three main forms of provision come from private agreements with landholders (permitted development - 14 day rule), private lawful off-road sites ("pay and play") or of course the use of public highways.
The Highway Authority is responsible for the Definitive Map and Statement and the only definitive legal public rights of way that MPVs can use are Byways Open to All Traffic (byways), of which in Powys there are approximately 220 kilometres. The only exception to this is if the byway is subject to a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), suspending the rights over the highway either on a temporary or permanent basis. If you would like to find out if there are any byways or routes that you can take a motorised vehicle, then a good place to look other than the Definitive map and Statement is the OS Explorer Map which will show where byways are, but of course is not definitive. Another good place is a website used by user groups at trailwise which will show where byways are and also if the route is subject to a TRO or not.
The Definitive Map and Statement only records what public rights have been proven, and it is the case that public rights may subsist on any other other way, but they simply have not been recorded. The legislation that currently exists has stipulated that all MPV rights on footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways have been extinguished, but there are exemptions to this which can be found in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, 2006 (NERCA, 2006).
Best practice and guidance given to Highway Authorities, states that a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO) should be submitted to the Highway Authority to determine MPV rights using 20 years of use, as what happened pre-NERCA 2006. If there is sufficient evidence, then the way is made into a restricted byway, and then the exemptions can be applied on top to determine MPV rights. This should be done on a route by route basis, and the burden of proof is on the user to prove MPV rights exist.
There are misconceptions surrounding motorised access, and it is important that steps are taken to provide appropriate educational material and marketing to put forward the legal position surrounding provision, and what is being done to tackle illegal activity across Wales.
The WORMS (Ed/Enf) Working Group is there to provide that consistent approach, as there are now a number of regional groups that have been set up due to local problems of illegal motorised access. The WORMS Group can be there to bring everything together so that there is uniformity and best practice delivered across Wales.
One of the strands, and perhaps at the forefront in providing education come from a charitable organisation called Treadlightly! This new organisation was founded and is endorsed by the Green Lanes Assocation (GLASS), Countryside Recreation Access Group (CRAG) and the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF).
The enforcement of illegal off-roading is constrained by the large rural geographical area that is mid-Wales, and the appropriate agencies must work together.
In recent times, the Mid Wales Off Road Forum (MWORF) was set up, that comprises of representatives from Dyfed-Powys Police, Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Ceredigion and Powys County Councils, Countryside Council for Wales, GLASS, CRAG and the TRF. The Group is chaired by Dyfed-Powys Police.
Enforcement can only be delivered to areas that we know have consistent problems with illegal MPV use, and this is collated through complaints delivered from websites from members of the public, and known hotspots. This intelligence is gathered, and joint operations between Dyfed-Powys Police, user groups and Powys County Council's Off-Road Unit are put into action.
The MWORF also has a part to play in working alongside the Highway Authority, and determining enforcement on highways that currently do not have definitive MPV rights.
Please find below two forms relating to Illegal Off Roading. If you wish to see a prosecution and are willing to attend court as a witness then please only complete the Witness Statement Form. Otherwise please complete the Illegal off Road Report Form which will still assist in future enforcement operations with Dyfed Powys Police.