Time for Change – Byelaws Fit For Purpose

A law that preserves recreational use must also protect access. Without protection the lands will remain at risk of imposed fencing and greater restrictions.

Prior to 1854 the lands were open and considered vital for the recreation and general good health of the population. In 1854 the army were awarded the Aldershot lands for the purposes of military training. For the next 164 years recreation was permitted whenever the lands were not in use for training. In 1976 public access for recreation became enshrined in law;  it is clear that military training takes precedent but when not being used for this purpose the community must be at liberty to enjoy it. It is a shared space, for military and civilians alike. 

A cyclist enjoying sunrise at Caesars Camp. Without protection from fencing the recreational potential of these areas are at risk.

In 2018 the simple principle of recreational access was unilaterally and arbitrary changed by Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) as they undertook a program of fence construction. Public exclusion, irrespective of training activity, has become the de facto approach and is in contravention to a 2003 recommendation that asked the DIO to form closer working relationships with the public.

Since 2018, 1540 acres of the lands have been permanently fenced off, excluding access even when the lands are not in use. Over time, left unchecked, there is nothing to stop the entire area being fenced off and lost forever. The lands are a highly valued and vital space for maintaining and enhancing both physical and mental health. The DIO must not be allowed to arbitrarily and unilaterally remove access via a series of stealth measures.

We are therefore calling for a new byelaw, one that preserves recreation and protects access for the public in the way that was always intended. A law that protects recreation alone is not fit for purpose and will fail the community as more lands are fenced and become no-go zones.

TAG have prepared a position paper clearly stating what changes are necessary and you can download a copy here:

The consultation period for the byelaw has not yet started but we must not wait. The DIO method of ‘consultation’ is to tell people what has been decided, not to invite comment and to ignore suggestions for improvement. We seek real change and the new byelaw must work for all parties and preserve the space for the local community and future generations.

If there is just one positive thing you can do right now it is this; write to your MP now telling them that you support the position paper and insist the military lands remain open and accessible for recreation when not in use.

You can find and write to your local MP using the www.writetothem.com website.

TAG Election Survey Results

As you may have seen on our Facebook page, TAG sent 133 letters to the candidates standing in tomorrow’s local elections asking them where they stand on recreational access to MoD land. The people elected tomorrow will have a significant voice in the forthcoming byelaw review that will determine how, when, and if, the public will be able to use the MoD lands. If you’ve not checked out the results of the TAG election survey – please have a look at our infographic and the individual results to see if your local candidates decided to reply, and what they said if they did.

election infographic_final.pngTAGAccessReportFinal20170901

Full candidate by candidate results can be found here https://tinyurl.com/tagsurveyresults

Public Meeting 8pm Wed 17th September St. John’s Hall, Cove

PUBLIC MEETING: As you may be aware it’s recently become apparent that recreational cycling access to the local MoD lands is under threat. The Trail Action Group (TAG) are holding a public meeting on the 17th September to discuss responsible use of this land and what local cyclists’ next steps should be. Please attend and let your voice be heard!

Where: St John’s Hall, 14 St John’s Road, Cove, Farnborough, GU14 9RQ
When: Wed 17th September 8pm for prompt 8:15pm start

Church Crookham Meeting

It was good to see so many passionate mtbers at the meeting in Church Crookham with the Army last night, whilst the atmosphere did get a little spikey at one point, lots of moderate voices were head and I hope it will act as a wakeup call to the powers that be at the MoD and they will now engage with MTB groups such as TAG.

My main takeaways from the meeting were:

  • The MoD have had legal advice that if they’re ever asked they must reply “cycling off metalled tracks is illegal under the 1976 byelaws and the definition of a metalled track is a tarmac road such as Bourley Road”
  • Whilst they have to repeat the party line, they did say they would be enforcing it by requesting riders to move on. If the rider was disruptive “again and again” then a ‘warning off notice’ would be issued, if it happened again, another ‘warning off notice’ would be issued but it’d be up to the police to do anything more (they share the notices with the police)
  • The primary objective of the meeting from the MoD point of view was to warn the local population about increased use by troops following the return of guys from Germany (27k in total, presumably not all coming to Aldershot) and more importantly there will be several new battalions in the locale who will have very large military vehicles
  • They were particularly worried that their trainee drivers would be driving badly in 29 ton Mastiff vehicles with poor visibility and flatten a cyclist / dog walker
  • The main impacted area will be the driving training area in Long Valley that is likely to see improved fences etc and enforcement (to be honest this area isn’t that great for MTBing)
  • The Army are restricted as to which areas they can use as they’ve given a fair amount up to developers as ‘SANGS’ (when they build houses they have to provide green space proportionate to the residents) and they can’t use the red flag areas if shooting is going on
  • There is a consultation on the byelaws that will happen in due course but they couldn’t tell us when or the route by which our views can be made known
  • They are considering ideas about how they manage public access – zoning was mentioned. They will appreciate they will need to consult on these following last night.
  • Whatever they think about mtbers it’s nothing compared with how much they dislike dog poo!
  • 140 mtbers turning up made an impression (some good some bad!) on the MoD and they’re probably puzzling about how they deal with the issue

TAG has got the Lt Col.’s email address and we’ll be trying to engage him directly about a way forward (if nothing else to show him some singletrack so he knows what he is dealing with). We’ll obviously keep everyone informed and we’d welcome hearing from anyone who wants to be engaged.

Finally I’d like to ask all local riders to read the Code of Conduct that is on the TAG website – if we all follow this we will be able to reduce conflict to a minimum and hopefully avoid draconian measures.

Ewan (TAG Chair)

www.trailactiongroup.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/trailactiongroup

Hi everyone,

As you may be aware 6 months ago TAG wrote a position paper setting out what we saw as the potential management options for MTBing on MoD land around Aldershot. We did this primarily to set our cards out on the table and to better understand MoD’s official position.

We have now had a response from MoD which is attached to the bottom of this post. As you will see, whilst it is not a wholly negative response, it does not significantly move the discussion towards sustainable use of MoD land by MTBers.

So, what are the next steps for TAG – there are three areas we intend to pursue:

  • Continue to be available to the MoD if and when they decide they wish to engage with the MTB users.
  • Provide information to MTBers of any news or information that will encourage sustainable use of the land, for example by promoting the Code of Conduct
  • Act as a key lobby group when the Aldershot Military Lands Byelaw review is undertaken to formally provide submissions advocating legal recognition of cyclist use of the land beyond the current restriction to byeways and made up roads.

Whilst TAG appreciates this isn’t great news, we will continue to pursue the above areas with vigour. We would of course welcome any feedback from MTBers on the position paper and MOD’s response.

Thank you for your support,

TAG

Mountain Biking on the Aldershot Military Land

DIO Response to TAG Paper

 

Cycling ban on Hankley Common

TAG is disappointed to hear that the MoD has decided to issue a ban on cycling on Hankley Common. Full details can be found at the link below and we urge mountain bikers to follow the following advice if you meet a patrol or LandMarc agent:

  • They have the right to stop you
  • Be polite regardless of provocation
  • If asked to leave the area, then do so (don’t just go round the corner as this is likely to provoke them)
  • If you have an incident at a specific location then don’t return to that location as repeat offending is most likely to result in confiscation
  • If property confiscation occurs then ensure you see their accreditation (military ID or LandMarc ID)
  • Notify TAG and your local councillor of any incident as soon as possible
  • Remember that everyone including the military read the websites, so think about what you post

http://www.surreycommunity.info/elsteadnews/hankley-common/cycling-ban/

We will continue to press for the MoD to recognise mountain biking use of the Aldershot Military Lands – please note that the situation is slightly different on Hankley Common in that the byelaws only allow cycling on bridleways rather than bridleways and fireroads as on the Aldershot Military Lands.

EDIT: Please note, that riding on the bridleways is still permitted.

Riding on military land

When riding on the Defence Estates training areas it is important to be aware of the byelaws that apply to cyclists and how this might affect you. The following is TAG’s considered advice to everyone using the military land for cycling. Please do not mistake the following as legal advice – it is not.

The byelaws mean that it is legal for any member of the Armed Forces (with military ID and of NCO rank or above) or the MoD land managers (LandMarc) to request that you leave the training area; this is at their discretion. There are no rules for this, so if they say go, you go or face the consequences. So if this does happen then leave with good grace and ride somewhere else that day.

Ultimately, the above officers have the right to seize your treasured bike and take it into custody for subsequent crushing. You have no right of appeal or compensation if this happens so don’t escalate any confrontation forcing them to take this step. Generally, any enforcement patrol will start with a warning and then escalate it only if you continue to offend in the same training area.

Should the worst happen, they are required to provide you with a ‘Warning Off’ notice in writing and confirmation that they have confiscated your bike.

Enforcement patrols for the training areas can occur at any time night or day.

So, if you do meet a patrol or LandMarc agent, please remember:

  • They have the right to stop you
  • Be polite regardless of provocation
  • If asked to leave the area, then do so (don’t just go round the corner as this is likely to provoke them)
  • If you have an incident at a specific location then don’t return to that location as repeat offending is most likely to result in confiscation
  • If property confiscation occurs then ensure you see their accreditation (military ID or LandMarc ID)
  • Notify TAG and your local councillor of any incident as soon as possible
  • Remember that everyone including the military read the websites, so think about what you post