South Dorset Ridgeway – proposal to allow public vehicles

Dorset Council has been asked, by the Trail Riders Fellowship ( to “correct” the definitive map of rights of way and record the South Dorset Ridgeway between the bridge over the relief road section of the A354 and the top of Goulds Hill as a byway open to all traffic or “BOAT”.

The original application was made long before the construction of the relief road, but was held up by a connected Court case. The Council now has to consider the application.

The Upwey Society has objected. What we said was:

“The Society believes that the Council should not make the requested orders.

Our primary reason is that any existing right of way for mechanically propelled vehicles (without our accepting that there was such a right) was extinguished by Section 67 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. None of the exceptions in Section 67 apply. Specifically the exceptions in subsection (2) are not relevant in this case. To take them in turn:

  • In relation to (2)(a), the main use of the bridleways by the public was not by mechanically propelled vehicles in the 5 years before May 2006. They were predominantly used by walkers, both local and long distance (BR39 was then part of the South West Coast Path). They were also used by horse-riders. Use by farm traffic, not the main use in any event, would have been for private access to nearby fields by David Foot Ltd.
  • The bridleways were not, to our knowledge, on the list referred to in (2)(b).
  • (2)(c) would have required the bridleways to have been created on terms expressly providing for mechanically propelled vehicles. They are part of a pre-historic ridgeway route and were defined as public carriageways at the time of the Upwey Inclosures of 1838, predating mechanical propulsion!
  • 2(d) does not apply.
  • The right of way was not created by virtue of use by mechanical vehicles as (2)(e) would require. (See the earlier observation on their antiquity and formalisation.)

Self-evidently the application for the new BOAT joining the Dorchester Road cannot be allowed. Since the construction of the relief road, the right of way does not exist, and nor does the point at which it would have met the Dorchester Road.

In any event the bridleways are unsuitable and impracticable for public use by motor vehicles. If they were in use as BOATs there would be nowhere for traffic to legally exit to the east. The C54 minor road (open to the A354 when the application was made) is now only a bridleway as it crosses the relief road. Traffic would perhaps be tempted to illegally use the old A354, which is also now only a bridleway. Using the proposed BOAT as a through route would mean using the Old Roman Road (the continuation of The Ridgeway) to join or leave it. This would be undesirable for a number of reasons, not least the speed at which off-road vehicles already sometimes travel down the steep metalled part of the Ridgeway. (At present such vehicles legally use the Old Roman Road, to or from the junction with the bridleways, illegally using the bridleways to the west, the bridleways or the farm track to the east, and often the old A354).”