Fury Over Flattening Of Peak District Track
The non-consultative flattening of a classic Peak District track by Derbyshire County Council (DCC) has enraged local outdoor people and mountain bikers in particular, triggering a 'protest picnic' at the work-site today.
The track, which leads from the crest of Rushup Edge down to the Edale Road near the junction with the Roych, is a continuation of Chapel Gate and technically a BOAT - Byway Open to All Traffic - which means its maintenance falls under the remit of Derbyshire County Council rather than the Peak District National Park Association.
Bikers are bemused at the work, since bluntly speaking, there was nothing wrong with the bedrock-based track in the first place and it formed an entertaining, though far from extreme section of one of the classic Peak District mountain biking loops.
Contractors have already filled-in a series of bedrock steps with medium-sized rubble and appear to be in the process of adding a top surface to create a sanitised, smooth top surface that seems quite at odds with the original trail and dull for biking, walking or running.
Paul Richardson, chair of Peak District MTB, a group which represents mountain bikers in the area is quietly dismayed at the work describing it as 'heavy handed and out of keeping with the landscape that both residents and visitors have come to love'.
'The wild and worn nature of the trails is part of the adventure of getting out into the hills, riding and walking on a smooth and flat surface can be done in an urban park landscape,' he says and expresses the fear that continued work of this type will have a knock-on effect on local businesses by reducing the number of outdoor visitors to the area.
Peak District MTB has tried to engage with DCC in the past, but despite assurances that they would be consulted over future work of this kind, nothing of the sort has actually happened with the work on Rushup Edge simply being instituted without consultation, apparently as part of the project to resurface Chapel Gate which drops down into Edale on the other side of the main ridge and has been similarly sanitised.
As with the recent work on Stanage Causeway, the problem seems to be not that DCC has an anti-outdoors or anti-mountain biking agenda, but simply that despite its legal responsibility for the maintenance of green lanes like Rushup Edge and Stanage Causeway which are technically 'highways', it simply has not the faintest empathy for the outdoors whatsoever.
Instead it's applying criteria more appropriate to tarmac roads to a semi-wilderness environment with disastrous and unsympathetic results - as a further irony, the user group which might most appreciate a smooth surface - 4x4s and trail bikes - has actually been banned from this particular track, which makes you wonder why DCC is still responsible for maintaining it. How can it be a road if it's not longer legally useable by vehicles?
The Bigger Picture
Why should you be concerned even if you don't ride a mountain bike? First, the new surface, like that on Stanage Causeway and Chapel Gate is out of keeping with the original character of the track and frankly, just as dull and un-atmospheric to walk or run along as it is to ride on a bike.
And secondly, in a National Park where tight planning rules rigidly control what you can or cannot build in an urban situation, it seems absurd that a county council can simply do whatever they feel to be appropriate without any need to consult either user groups or the Peak District National Park Authority.
Mountain bikers have reacted by organising a peaceful 'picnic protest' on Rushup Edge today, by writing to DCC to express concern and 'post-bombing the council's FaceBook pages with messages protesting at the resurfacing, but sadly the damage, and yes, it is 'damage', to the track has been done and seems unlikely to be reversed.
Make no mistake though, this is not just an issue for mountain bikers. It's wholly wrong that a county council should be squandering taxpayers' money on projects within a national park without consultation either with those who use and protect the park or indeed the park authority.
It'll be interesting to see if groups like the Friends of the Peak District respond to the situation and we've love to know how a 'road' that is no longer effectively a road, is still the responsibility of the council. It makes no sense whatsoever.