Apr 20 2003
By Monica Hawley
OFF-ROAD vehicles and motorbikes are putting residents’ lives in danger and ruining the countryside by speeding along a normally quiet lane in Coldharbour.
Over the last year, Capel Parish Council has received regular calls about bikes and 4×4 vehicles driving dangerously along Crockers Lane, which leads from the village to Wotton.
They are allowed to use the lane because it is a public byway, but villagers have complained that many do not stick to the path and are churning up the countryside.
Concerned residents, Forestry Commission wardens, the National Trust area manager and district councillor Neil Maltby (Con, Leith Hill), met last week to discuss the problem.
They drove down the lane, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to see the damage that has been caused by motorbikes and 4x4s.
As the meeting took place just three days after an illegal rave just off the lane, it was also full of rubbish that had been left behind.
Rory Cobb, of the Forestry Commission, said barriers and fencing have been put in to deter people from using the lanes for driving.
But one barrier had been rammed and some sections of railing taken out.
Wildlife conservation officer Glen Boxall said: “The other day I stopped 38 motorcycles off the green lane within two hours. Wednesday evenings are lethal. There are about 50 bikes outside the pub and they run from there to the Wotton Hatch pub.”
He added that small footpaths are being turned into large tracks because drivers are not sticking to the road and that a number of raves over the past year have not helped the situation.
“On Sunday morning, when fire and police were here, you would not have thought you were in a peaceful countryside village in Surrey,” he said. “It completely goes against the grain of the use of the countryside.”
Pat Tate, of Abinger Parish Council, said: “These actions are changing the whole nature of the countryside. It’s becoming a huge playground and the two things are not compatible.”
Last March, Capel Parish Council set up an answerphone service that residents can ring to report any misuse of green lanes.
It has led to 38 messages about speeding motor-bikes, wrecked cars and 4x4s in near-misses with walkers.
After the meeting, chairman Jenny Richards said the situation will be monitored for another year.
“The Forestry Commission is going to put wooden stakes as a deterrent in the bit of the lane that has been badly eroded by 4x4s.
“But the worry is that there is very little we can do to stop the motorbikes because they can get over or round them if they really want to.
“We are going to advertise the helpline number in the hope that people will report any misuse,” she said.
Signs have also gone up asking people to keep to the track and advising that if damage continues, it could result in a Traffic Regulation Order removing all public vehicular rights from the lane.
But Mrs Richards warned: “To get the lane downgraded would be difficult because it is a very emotive situation.”
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