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Green road driving after NERC: keeping on the right side of the law


The commencement of the rights of way provisions of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC), on 2 May 2006 (Wales commencing later on 11th May 2006) brought to an end the lawful enjoyment of hundreds of public vehicular roads that had been wrongly recorded on the definitive map – or not recorded as public roads at all. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of NERC and the often cited mistruths, NERC is now law, and drivers of motor vehicles need to understand the basics of the new order so as to keep out of harm’s way when encountering the forces of law and order.

A basic summary of the effect of NERC is that, blacktopped public roads aside, the public may now exercise a vehicular public right of way only on byways open to all traffic (BOAT) and unsealed roads recorded in the highway authority’s ‘list of streets’ (otherwise known as unclassified (county) roads), where these unclassified roads have vehicular rights

A more detailed explanation of what this means and its interpretation can be found in the member resources section.


With NERC in force, the driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle (MPV) on unsealed roads may come up against legal challenges in any of three main areas.

  1. actually driving on the routes;
  2. traffic regulation orders; 
  3. and technical matters like silencers and tyres.

The most likely offence that an MPV driver may be accused of is a breach of s.34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. A conviction under this act does not carry penalty points, and the offence is not one for which a fixed penalty notice can be issued. The fine is level 3 on the standard scale – currently a £1,000 maximum.

Section 59's

This Act gives uniformed officers additional powers to deal, ‘on the spot’, with anti social motor use, and the provision was introduced as a consequence of increased public concern about ‘joy riding’ and ‘cruising’ in car parks, as well as unlawful off-road motoring. 

In summary S.59 of the Act allows a constable in uniform, who has reasonable grounds for believing that a motor vehicle is being used on any occasion in a manner which is being carelessly driven or, contravenes the Road Traffic Act 1988, and (b) is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public, to undertake one of the following actions

  • (A) The power, if the motor vehicle is moving, to order the person driving the vehicle to stop;
  • (B) The power to seize and remove the motor vehicle;
  • (C) The power, for the purposes of exercising a power falling within paragraphs (a) or (b) to enter any premises on which he has reasonable grounds for believing the motor vehicle to be;
  • (D) The power to use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise of any power conferred by any of paragraphs (a) to (c).

but the power to seize a motor vehicle cannot be exercised unless, by s.59(4), the officer has warned the person using the motor vehicle that he will seize it if use continues or is repeated, and, it appears to the officer that use has been continued or repeated. Seizure without warning can take place if: the circumstances make it impracticable for the officer to give a warning

The above is an abridged summary. For a fuller explanation of what this means, and the actions you can take to prevent them refer to the information in the member resources section

This information is provided for guidance and should not be relied upon

All information contained on this website is for the exclusive use of the TrailRiders Association and copyright protection is claimed.

Trail Riders Association is a non-profit organisation. 

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