4x4 DRIVERS will not be blocked from using off-road tracks in the South Lakes, after a legal challenge to ban the practice was defeated.

A campaign group made up of cyclists, ramblers and horse riders - called the Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement (GLEAM) - had launched an appeal after the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) decided to allow 4x4 and motorbike riders to use two old farm and quarry tracks in Coniston and Langdale.

Gleam argued the national park’s decision endangered cyclists, ramblers and other more environmentally-friendly users of the land.

However, their legal effort was dismissed by a High Court judge last Friday.

More than £64,000 was donated towards the action, with 2,000 backers contributing towards the legal campaign.

A petition requesting the LDNPA put a stop to off-road driving on tracks near Little Langdale garnered more than 374,000 signatures.

The land once belonged to Beatrix Potter, with ownership transferred to the National Trust in the 1930s and 40s.

Although its judicial review was defeated, GLEAM said the support it received was heartening.

Commenting on the outcome, Chairman Dr Mike Bartholomew said: “We are of course disappointed in the judgment, but it does not change the fundamental issue, which is that off-roading in Little Langdale is damaging the natural beauty of this part of the National Park, and that the LDNPA is refusing to stop the damage, even though it has ample powers to do so.

“Today’s judgment does not change the fundamental issue. GLEAM will be continuing to support the local campaign to get the LDNPA to make TROs [Traffic Regulation Orders] on these two tracks.”

The claimant who took the case on behalf of GLEAM, Patricia Stubbs, said: "The legal challenge was about the way the LDNPA made its decision. It was not about whether LDNPA’s decision was the right one.

"Other National Parks faced with the environmental impact of off-road motor bikes and 4x4s use their legal powers to do something about it. These legal powers were given to all the National Parks by Parliament in 2006 specifically to deal with off-roading.

"Instead of choosing to use their powers, the LDNPA has decided that protecting off-roading interests is more important than carrying out its primary statutory duty, which is to conserve natural beauty.

"LDNPA says that the Park is for everyone. We agree. But it does not follow that every activity must be approved and facilitated.

"Notably, offroading should be restricted and off-road motor vehicle users encouraged to enjoy the Park in less damaging ways."

The campaign group Save the Lake District said: "The current Coronavirus crisis has made it clear beyond doubt just how precious the landscapes of all the national parks are and how questionable is the unrestricted use of motor vehicles on fell tracks.

"The campaign to secure Traffic Regulation Orders prohibiting off-roading on the two Little Langdale routes will go on. We are certain that the LDNPA will in the end conclude that it cannot continue to put the minority interests of 4x4 drivers and motorcyclists above its duty to protect the natural beauty of the Lake District."

A spokesperson for LDNPA said: “The judgement dismissed the claim on all three grounds; supporting and vindicating our approach to the Sandford principle, our approach to the survey and consultation, the manner in which the matter was presented to committee and the decision reached.”