TRF:Hi John. It looks like 2016 has been an exceptionally busy year for you and the TRF team. Looking back, how do you feel it’s gone?
John:TRF has really shined in 2016, having overcome significant internal challenges during 2015. The members’ determination and hard work to bring about the much required transformation of TRF has paid off. It’s testament to the members’ efforts and capability that TRF has engaged in relatively few court actions this year. TRF’s greatest success has been to ensure that its road conservation activity is delivering public benefit to the extent that unjust TRO’s are only a threat in exceptional circumstances.
TRF:At the recent National Conference you went into quite a bit of detail about the Rights of Road activity that the TRF have undertaken this year. Is it true that not a single unjust TRO has gone unchallenged where trail riders have sought TRF help?
John:Of course its true – that is what the TRF does and why I volunteer to be a director. I didn’t volunteer because I want to sit on my hands whilst access is unfairly denied. Road conservation is TRF’s 110% priority. The peripheral stuff – forums, TRAIL magazine, TRF politics – none of that is especially important in comparison.
TRF:What should TRF members take from that achievement? Does it mean that we are out of the park or are there more challenges ahead?
John:TRF faces the challenge of having to adapt to its new circumstances of being an organisation in the business of road conservation, which pursues litigation as a last resort. Some of TRF’s longer standing practices and culture does not lend itself to providing best foundations for working with other organisations and use of litigation. Poor practice of the past was not a major issue for TRF as the consequences were negligible. Poor practice in current circumstances can result in significant detriment to cases where TRF has £50k+ of risk.
TRF:I know you can’t go into too much detail, but would you like to give a short insight into the Rights of Road cases that the TRF have undertaken this year…
John:The greatest threats to access this year have been in the Southeast. Hampshire had 8 green roads subject of TRO. A TRF legal challenge has negated that threat for the time being. 16 TRO’s were made in Sussex en-bloc. Long standing efforts by the local TRF group ensured that motorcycles and quads were not affected. A similar situation in Kent concerns a TRO which affects 7 green roads. Local TRF efforts have ensured it is a 4x4 only TRO. Essex County Council has made TRO’s affecting 15 green roads – TRF has initiated a legal challenge. That’s 36 green roads affected by TRO process in one year in one region. The rest of the Country has been relatively calm in comparison. I am especially proud of the Southeast TRF members who have dealt with the TRO’s in a quietly efficient and professional manner. The achievements demonstrate that TRF is at its best when it is operating as the lead organisation for trail riding interests.
TRF:It’s the TRF AGM in January and the current leadership team are looking to stand for another year, as well as being joined by 4 more volunteer directors. What does the immediate future of the TRF and trail riding in the UK look like?
TRF:And long term?
John:Trailriding was established just over a century ago. We’re still here and we’re still trailriding. In another century there will still be trailriding. You can’t uninvent green roads and you can’t uninvent motorcycles, just as you can’t uninvent the stirrup or the MTB.