THE Lake District National Park Authority solicitor, Julie Wood, is correct in saying our legal case against the LDNPA alleges that the authority failed to properly advise members of the rights of way committee of their duty under the Sandford Principle when the decision was made to allow offroading on two tracks in the Little Langdale area to continue.

The Sandford Principle is the statutory obligation placed on all national park authorities by the 1995 Environment Act to give greater weight to conserving natural beauty than to recreation.

The principle is derived from a 1974 report on the national parks chaired by Lord Sandford. This is what pSandford said: “The first purpose of National Parks - the preservation and enhancement of natural beauty - seems to us to remain entirely valid and appropriate.

The second purpose - the promotion of public enjoyment - however needs to be re-interpreted and qualified because it is now evident that excessive or unsuitable use may destroy the very qualities which attract people to the parks. We have no doubt that where the conflict between the two purposes which has always been inherent, becomes acute, the first one must prevail in order that the beauty and ecological qualities of the National Parks may be maintained.”

It will be for the courts to decide whether the LDNPA has or has not interpreted and applied the Sandford Principle correctly. The outcome of the case is likely to have implications not only for off-roading in the Little Langdale area but for future LDNPA decisions about recreational developments which appear to be in conflict with its primary statutory duty under the 1995 Act.

Dr Michael Bartholomew

Chairman, Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement, Otley