Traffic Regulation Orders

Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) are legal documents that restrict or prohibit the use of the highway network, in line with The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Local Authorities must exercise their traffic regulation powers to secure the safe passage of all traffic on Public Rights of Way, including walkers, horse riders, cyclists and motor and horse-drawn vehicles.

These orders don’t extinguish any rights whether public or private, over a road, but may make it an offence to exercise such rights. A person who disobeys a TRO commits a criminal offence, for which the maximum penalty is currently a £1,000 fine. They can be permanent, temporary or experimental, or may be imposed to allow the holding of a special event.

The grounds for making a permanent TRO are extensive:

  • For avoiding danger to people or other traffic using the road, or preventing danger arising
  • For preventing damage to the road or to any building on or near the road
  • For facilitating the passage on the road or any other road of any class of traffic (including people on foot)
  • For preventing the use of the road by vehicule traffic where that use is unsuitable bearing in mind the existing character of the road or adjoining property
  • For preserving the character of the road in a case where it is especially suitable for use by walkers or horse riders
  • For preserving or improving the amenities of the area through which the road runs
  • For conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of an area, or affording better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area, for recreation or nature study
  • For the purpose of avoiding, reducing or preventing the danger and/or damage connected with terrorism

The grounds for making a temporary TRO are as follows:

  • Because works (e.g. road repairs) are being or are proposed to be undertaken on or near the road
  • Because of the likelihood of danger to the public, or of serious damage to the road, which is not attributable to such works
  • To enable an authority to undertake its litter clearing and cleaning duties
  • For a purpose relating to danger or damage connected with terrorism

A ‘special events order’ can be made if a local authority is satisfied that traffic on a road should be restricted or prohibited for the purposes of:

  • Facilitating the holding of a ‘relevant event’
  • Enabling members of the public to watch a relevant event
  • Reducing the disruption of traffic likely to be caused by a relevant event

Many ‘green lanes’ (the term commonly used to describe byways open to all traffic (BOATs), restricted byways and unsurfaced unclassified roads (UCRs)) are obvious candidates for TROs. Although all BOATs and many UCRs carry vehicular rights on the basis that they were formerly horse and cart routes, their unsealed surfaces are often unsuitable for modern vehicles such as trail bikes and 4x4s.

Where any of the grounds for making a permanent TRO are met, for example for preserving the character of a road where it’s especially suitable for use by walkers and horse riders, any member of the public can lobby their local authority for a TRO to prohibit motor vehicles from a named road, or to prohibit them at a particular time of the year.

Experimental TROs may be made for up to 18 months and can renewed for one further 18-month period by application to the Secretary of State for Transport.

National park authorities have been given their own powers to make Traffic Regulation Orders over rights of way and other unsurfaced highways within national parks.

The application of a TRO introduces the offence of contravening the TRO which is more robust than a civil action for trespass. In addition, even in cases where the activity in question has the express consent and approval of the landowner, an authority’s traffic regulation powers may be used to stop it.

public rights of way

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