Protecting the moors around Rochdale
3rd May 2021

Off-road mitigation measures

Now is perhaps a good time to let people know our forum is involved in a project to introduce off-road mitigation measures to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in the area with particular regard to off-road bikes, quads and 4x4s.
Work started on the first phase of the project on Tuesday 27th April 2021 to replace 1km of damaged fencing along part of Edenfield Road, near to Owd Betts in Norden. There are a number of rights of way to consider, one of which is a bridleway. The plan is to replace the fence and place new gates, styles and vehicle barriers at various points to restrict unauthorised vehicle access onto the moor.
In Rochdale we are fortunate to have guidance and advice from Rochdale Council’s Public Rights of Way Officer, who is acting as the project lead. Together we have raised over £13,000 and financial contributions have come from RMNF, Rochdale Ward and Township Funds, the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale, Rochdale and Bury Bridleways Association, the Greater Manchester Lieutenancy Office of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Greater Manchester High Sheriffs Police Trust.

Why are we doing this

Evidence shows that large numbers of off-road vehicles regularly travel from outside the Rochdale area, from as far away as Merseyside, Cheshire, Derbyshire and beyond, in order to illegally ride or drive on the moors. So far the furthest travelled and apprehended has been from Edinburgh! These off-road vehicles, particularly motorbikes, quads and 4x4s are causing significant environmental damage to the surrounding moorland peat (a natural carbon store), damaging wildlife (especially ground nesting birds) and putting upland farming at risk by distressing grazing cattle and sheep – large areas of the moorland in our area is Common Land where Commoners exercise their “Rights of Common” to graze sheep and cattle. Significant damage is being caused to footpaths and bridleways and sadly there are reports of legitimate users of these facilities (farmers, equestrians, ramblers and cyclists, etc.) being put at risk and threatened with physical violence.
  • Watch the BBC North West Tonight news item broadcast on Wednesday 31st March 2021 by clicking HERE.
  • Read a Rossendale Free Press article by clicking HERE.
  • Rossendale & Pendle Mountain Rescue Team reported, “The moors have become horrendously devastated by illegal trials bikers ripping through the hillside creating vast areas of deep rutted land. At daytime it’s bad enough but in the pitch of night it proved nearly impossible to navigate but thanks to specialist kit and thorough training (but some 4 hours later), the casualty was off the hill and safely going to hospital for further treatment.” Read more HERE.

What the Police are doing

Operation Dragster is the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) response to these illegal off-road activities and last year, at the start of the first lockdown, the Police expanded Operation Dragster due to increased complaints. As a consequence of Operation Dragster, our forum along with a large number of residents and their ward councillors became actively involved in regular Zoom meetings with our Neighbourhood Beat Officers to discuss these issues and to see what could be done to improve the situation. At these meetings a number of opportunities were identified to reduce unauthorised motor vehicle access to the moors and our GMP Neighbourhood Beat Officers have been outstanding in liaising with the community and helping to tackle these issues. Together we have built positive working relationships with Lancashire Police, the GMP Off Road Bike Team, local Councillors, the Rights of Way Officers in Rochdale and Rossendale Council, local landowners – in particular United Utilities and the agent for the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale, the West Pennines Commoners Association, the Rochdale Ramblers, Rossendale & Pendle Mountain Rescue Team, community groups such as Prickshaw & Broadley Fold Neighbourhood Watch and the equestrian community through the Rochdale & Bury Bridleway Association.
GMP advise enforcement activity will continue throughout this year.

Next steps

All of the organisations involved in this project have been consulted and are looking at what learnings they can take to do something similar in the surrounding area. Lancashire Police have recently introduce “Rossendale’s Rural Task Force” and we have asked local Members of Parliament, The Right Honourable Jake Berry, Tony Lloyd and Chris Clarkson to approach wind farm companies in the area to get involved.

What you can do

We hope you all agree the moors in our area should be a safe place for locals and visitors to enjoy, especially given how the current pandemic has shown our green spaces to be incredibly beneficial to the health and wellbeing of so many legitimate users.
We still need people to report illegal off-road vehicles, please contact the Police on 101, or use the ‘live chat’ facility on the Greater Manchester Police website.