A tense hearing about the use of two ‘green lanes’ in the Lake District has stopped short of banning 4x4s drivers and motorbike trail riders.

Two unclassified roads stretching between Coniston, Langdale and Skelwith in the national park have become a toxic battleground between walkers, horse riders, mountain bikers, 4×4 off-roaders and motorcyclists.

The national park’s rights of way committee heard from opposing sides at a two-hour meeting in Kendal, attended by around 50 people.

Nick Thorne, the park’s countryside access advisor, called on the six-member panel to base its decision on evidence, not “emotion and rhetoric’”.

At the centre of the argument was the 1.5-mile stretch of the U5001 Tilberthwaite Road between the A593 at Yewdale and Fell Foot, Little Langdale. Also debated was the third-of-a-mile section of the U5004 which runs between the A683 near Colwith and Hodge Close, near Coniston.

Charlie Shepherd, chairman of the Lake District area Ramblers, said “noise and fumes” spoiled the “peace and tranquillity” of the area, while ‘minor’ roads were not made for ‘rallying’.

Objector Diane Mallinson claimed the park’s report “cherrypicked, distorted or ignored” evidence and that a management solution would not control off-roading.

However, Steve Stout, for the Cumbria Trail Riders Fellowship, said he had been left ‘speechless’ by the “hate, bullying and discrimination” of ‘minority group’ by those campaigning for a traffic regulation order.

Geoff Wilson, of the Motoring Organisations’ land and access and recreation association, also accused the ‘expertly-orchestrated lobby group’ of ‘misrepresentations, exaggeration, half-truths, and fear’.

“The Lake District should not and will not be saved from anything, if indeed it needs to be, by reacting hastily to this sort of harassment,” he added.

There were calls that conservation of the landscape should come first whenever there was a conflict between users, although the meeting heard the number of vehicles using the roads was “not exactly Piccadilly Circus”.

After a 74-page assessment report into the issues by park officers, the committee voted 5 to 1 to agree to a management solution for the U5001 to bring key stakeholders together. The U5004 will be ‘monitored’.

Peter Allen MBE, deputy chairman of the LDNPA, proposed the officer’s recommendation be agreed. 

“We have conflicting arguments here and I always think when you get conflict the easiest way is to try and manage it,” said Mr Allen.

Member Ian Wharton said: “It’s a park for the enjoyment and pleasure of all people – whether they are walkers, cyclists, motorcyclists or 4×4 drivers.”

Member Vicky Hughes said the panel ‘struggled’ with the decision and had to strike a balance. “There is congestion on those roads at certain times with 4x4s and the overuse of motorcycles,” she said.

Member Louise Waterhouse said ‘banning’ 4x4s would not solve the problem and the park was for ‘all, not just for some.  “We have to respect everybody has a right to use these roads until there is some sort of law on them, and that may be a TRO in the future.”

Committee chairman Geoff Davies voted against the officer recommendation and had ‘considerable misgivings’ about the conflict being solved through a management plan.

“It’s essential for the various groups of conflicting opinions to try and sort this out, with goodwill on all sides, in a way that brings peace and harmony,” said Mr Davies.

Commenting afterward, Nick Fieldhouse, of off-road driving company Kankku, applauded the authority for its work on the issue.

He said: “It’s now for us to deliver. We have to put a management plan in place. We may end up more restricted than we are now, but maybe that’s no bad thing. We are trying to keep the activity of an old Landrover rattling down a quarry road alive for future generations.”

The Save Langdale Green Lanes Campaign said the decision was ‘difficult’ to understand, despite the evidence, and feelings of residents, the National Trust, the Ramblers and others.

“This is not how you preserve the special qualities of the national park and the World Heritage site for future generations,” it said.