Access to rural roads around beauty spots has to be limited and the Government should issue guidelines to ensure restrictions can be imposed, according to the Countryside Commission's transport officer, Ken Robertson.
Speaking at the launch of the RAC's report into the impact of car use on the North York Moors, Mr Robertson said that it was time the Government got to grips with the idea that some roads cannot cope with all the traffic that wants to use it. He said: "Restricting traffic demand must be seen as an acceptable aim and it is up to the Government to provide the lead."
The problem with trying to restrict usage of local roads in areas with considerable tourist traffic is that local people often object through fear that it will have an impact on business. A radical scheme to close some roads in the Lake District caused an uproar last year among residents and the plans had to be toned down. A revamped scheme is to be published next month by Cumbria County Council.
Mr Robertson said that if the Government stated clearly that it was desirable to restrict traffic use, then residents would be more likely to accept restrictions and the process of reversing the despoilation of the countryside could begin.
Initial measures could be simple ideas such as traffic calming, speed limits or restrictions on certain types of vehicles, but more radical measures could follow.
The Countryside Commission is to meet Department of Transport officials over the issue in the summer and more radical proposals to restrict traffic, such as charging for the use of roads may emerge. The Commission and environmental groups have been encouraged by the suggestion in the Government's Green Paper on transport published last month that local authorities may want to set up schemes to charge traffic where there is congestion.
While ministers seemed to be referring only to schemes in urban areas, the Department of Transport is known to be sympathetic to the idea of imposing some restraints on use of rural roads and once legislation was introduced, there would be nothing to stop rural authorities setting up charging schemes.
The RAC's report raises a number of possible ways of reducing traffic on the North York Moors such as setting up park and ride schemes and reducing car park charges for people staying for long periods.
Edmund King, the RAC's campaigns officer, said: "It is amazing that the majority of people do not go more than 200 yards from their cars. They indulge in a kind of car grazing, stopping at car parks here and there and looking at the countryside through their front windscreens." He said that setting up car park schemes to discourage this car grazing would benefit the countryside.
5 Oxford Brookes University, North York Moors National Park Impact of Car Usage Study 1994/5, RAC Foundation for Motoring and the Environment.
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