Off road vehicles & unclassified country roads

Off road vehicles – How to report illegal activities and bad behaviour

Issues concerning recreational ‘off-road’ motor vehicles in Colton Parish
(and surrounding areas)

The use of recreational vehicles (4x4s, trail bikes and quad bikes) in the countryside has become a popular pastime; both for individuals and tourism businesses. Issues concerning illegal access, landscape damage and behaviour offensive to other countryside users has cause some concern. This page aims to provide useful information on legal vs. illegal activity and how to report incidents to the police.

A Working Group has been set up in the High Furness area of South Lakeland concerning ‘Inappropriate and Illegal use of the Countryside by Motor Vehicles’. For more information please contact the clerk

Legal vs. Illegal use of Motor Vehicles

What is legal and what is illegal use of motor vehicles in the countryside?

It is perfectly legal to drive a motor vehicle on some unsurfaced routes. These routes are often referred to collectively as ‘green roads’, but more formally they are known as ‘Byways Open To All Traffic’ (BOATs), ‘Unsurfaced County Roads’ (UCRs), or ‘Other Routes with Public Access’ (ORPAs). These are often finger posted as ‘Public Ways’ in Cumbria and the National Park. All unsurfaced routes with vehicular access are subject to exactly the same laws as for surfaced roads, so all vehicles must be road-legal, that is, taxed and insured, with MOT’s if appropriate, and with visible and correctly sized number plates. Colton Parish has 8 ‘green roads’. It is illegal (a criminal offence) to drive or ride a motor-vehicle on any other land or right-of-way without permission from the landowner.

The  Lake District National Park and  Cumbria County Council both have useful information on green road driving and legal routes.

Two key concerns have arisen from ‘off-road’ activity within the parish:

1. In the past few years, the incidence of illegal off-road activity (on illegal tracks and excursions onto sensitive fell sides) has increased markedly, along with bad, sometimes threatening behaviour to other recreational users and land-owners. If you see such behaviour we encourage you to report it.

2. Damage to green roads in Colton Parish, and the need for maintenance and repair: This  is now so severe that some are impassable for farmers accessing their stock, directly affecting local livelihoods. Cumbria County Council Highways have responsibility for repair, but their limited funds mean that these roads are extremely low priority.  However, the Colton Green Roads Pilot Working Group has surveyed some of the routes and funding was found for repairs to one of them:  High Ickenthwaite to Nibthwaite Grange (Bletherbarrow Lane) (U5064). This was carried out in 2013 as pilot study, and made a huge improvement. However, since then, no further work has been done, nor has the planned monitoring been carried out.