Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Off-road vehicles damage Surrey habitat

An area of Surrey countryside full of wildlife has been badly damaged by off-road vehicles.

Ranmore Common near Dorking, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, has been churned up by cars and bikes leaving designated off-road tracks.

The National Trust, which owns part of the site, said vehicles were able to cross ditches into prohibited areas because they were filled with snow.

The common is an important habitat for breeding birds and butterflies.

'Total clash'

The area is criss-crossed by a number of lanes called BOATS [byway open to all traffic] but many drivers have been using the wider countryside to pursue their pastime.

National Trust head warden Rob Hewer said: "A lot of people are abusing it and coming off the track.

We can seize offending vehicles and the owner will have to pay to get them back
Insp John Tadman, Surrey Police

"Ranmore Common is a Site of Special Scientific Interest but these guys are trying to turn it into a playground and it's a total clash.

"These areas are becoming rarer and this is causing a lot of damage.

"We put logs to to stop them getting on there and we are working with the police to stop these people from doing it.

"A lot of those green lanes are a real clash - they are a real issue.

"The off-road vehicles have gone into the woods and caused a lot of damage to plant life and created ruts. We've got orchids and all kinds of things in the area."

Mole Valley neighbourhood inspector John Tadman said: "Surrey Police takes a tough stance on illegal off-roading and if we find vehicles off-roading in areas they should not be we will not hesitate to take robust action.

"Under Section 59 of the Police Reform Act we can seize offending vehicles and the owner will have to pay to get them back. In some cases they can face court action for this offence."

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