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Trail riders win battle over ban on use of byways near Stonehenge

A group of trail riders have won a High Court battle over Wiltshire County Council’s decision to ban temporarily the use of seven byways and a footpath in an area close to the Stonehenge World Heritage site.

The case of Trail Riders Fellowship v Wiltshire County Council [2018] EWHC 3600 (Admin) involved an application under paragraph 35 of Schedule 9 to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to quash the local authority’s decision of 28 June 2018 to make the County of Wiltshire (Various Byways and Footpath, Amesbury, Berwick St James, Durrington, Wilsford cum Lake and Woodford) (Prohibition of Driving) Experimental Order 2018 ("the 2018 Order").

The 2018 Order was made in exercise of the power at section 9 of the 1984 Act, which is a power to make orders "for the purposes of carrying out an experimental scheme of traffic control". Experimental orders may not continue in force for more than 18 months.

The claimant Trail Riders Fellowship is a national organisation which exists to preserve the full status of vehicular green lanes and the rights of motorcyclists and others to use them as a legitimate part of the access network of the countryside.

The 2018 Order prohibited the use of "any motor vehicle" on any of the byways, with the exception of vehicles used by landowners or tenants for access.

The Trail Riders Fellowship contended that the decision to make the 2018 Order - taken by the council's Director for Highways and Transport, in exercise of delegated powers - was unlawful on three grounds.

The first ground related to consultation. The TRF contended that there was a failure to comply with requirements relating to consultation under regulation 6 of the Local Authorities' Traffic Orders (Procedure)(England and Wales) Regulations 1996 and/or that there was a failure to consult in breach of a legitimate expectation that consultation would occur.

The second and third grounds of challenge were linked: the former was to the effect that the 2018 Order was made without regard to relevant considerations; the latter was that the 2018 Order was not made for any experimental purpose and for that reason was not a proper exercise of the power at section 9 of the 1984 Act.

Mr Justice Swift upheld the challenge on the consultation ground.

He said: “The decision taken by the council not to consult was not a rational decision. It took account of an irrelevant consideration; the reasons relied on in [the director’s] evidence are not logically connected to the question posed by the requirement at line 7(c) of the table in regulation 6 of the 1996 Regulations; and to the extent that the council is contending that the decision to make the 2018 Order had to be taken so quickly that there was no time to consult, those circumstances were entirely self-induced.

The judge however rejected the claim in in relation to legitimate expectation, and dismissed the second and third grounds.

Mr Justice Swift quashed the 2018 Order. He added that, subject to compliance with the requirements of the 1984 Act and the 1996 Regulations, it would be open to Wiltshire to remake an order to the effect of the 2018 Order.

“Should the council take that course it would be prudent to have particular care over the content and formulation of the Statement of Reasons, and the description within that Statement of the experiment that is the reason for the section 9 order,” he said.

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