AREAS of the Dales National Park are being ruined as 4x4 drivers and motorcycle trail riders turn them into a playground residents and councillors have warned.

Even closure orders imposed by county highways are being ignored, now residents and landowners are calling for a new debate to see how ancient green lanes can be protected. Part of the problem is the lanes are public highways and legal moves to downgrade them have been challenged through the courts.

Furious residents concerned about the green lane from Skelton to Helwith Bridge in Swaledale took their case to the Richmondshire Area Committee of North Yorkshire county council. The lane has a closure order but they say it’s being ignored and are calling on the authority to take action.

Landowner Oliver Leatham said it is a nightmare for farmers and people trying to use it. “The vehicles that go across are trail bikes or 4x4 vehicles and completely disregard the closure that is in force.

“They rush around knocking down lambs and sheep, people with horses could be injured because they could rear up. Farmers can’t get access to the land because it is now inaccessible. It has not been touched by the council since 1979, it should be closed and downgraded to a bridleway, it was used in ancient times by people to get from A to B but it is completely ruined now. “

Cllr John Blackie said it is an ongoing problem in the Dales National park, although there were extremely well organised events such as the Scott Trial which brings in visitors and boosts the Dales, but other trail motorcycle riders and 4x4 drivers are causing chaos.

He said: ”People come from well beyond the county without a thought for the damage they do to the landscape, as they roar through the villages, often in convoy, this green lane has been completely ruined. The traffic restriction is totally ignored by these trailists. Marske and New Forest parish council and residents want the County council to stop this highway and prevent it being a green highway because of the damage to the landscape.”

Richard Marr from North Yorkshire Highways said it was a question of whether a test case should be made which could be challenged legally in the courts by groups which do have resources. He said: “There is a need to have the debate to consider future options. There is a large and growing body of people who look at these lanes as their playground, there for them to enjoy. Abuse varies from people who take great care to others going backwards and forwards causing damage.

“The 4x4 drivers and trailists want to see these maintained and brought back into use. On the other side we have the local people and cyclists who want to restrict use,” he added.

Insp Mark Gee told members of the committee :“We are aware of this, but it is a very fine line for us to walk, we do work with the Park rangers.”

Mr Leatham added:”The police are fantastic but what a waste of police time, they don’t want the responsiblity,so get rid of it.They are called out virtually every weekend, these riders and drivers take no notice of the signs , it is not for recreational use, it is unusable and dangerous for livestock and people."