An order banning vehicles at a popular location in County Durham has been extended for two years.
Durham County Council has extended a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order which is in place at Doctors Gate in Hamsterley Forest.
The order has been in place on a trial basis for six months, with the aim of combatting the use of off-road vehicles, which has caused significant damage to the area’s natural environment and has posed a fire risk to the forest and nearby properties.
Due to continued reports of people accessing the lane illegally, the council has agreed to extend the order for a further two years, banning all unauthorised vehicles.
The council is working with landowners to identify areas where people are gaining access to the lane and will be carrying out targeted enforcement with the support of Durham Constabulary.
Signs have also been installed at multiple access points to remind all drivers it is illegal to use vehicles in the area unless authorised.
In the spring, the council will be carrying out works to restore the surface of the lane and allow the local environment to re-establish itself.
Cllr John Shuttleworth, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for highways, rural communities, and community safety, said: “Hamsterley Forest is a popular location visited by thousands of people each year, with many using Doctors Gate for activities such as cycling, horse riding, and walking.
“The use of unauthorised vehicles in this area is not only illegal, it has damaged the natural environment which so many people enjoy.
“We would appeal to everyone to follow these, rules so the forest’s natural habitat can recover.
“I would also stress that we will be taking enforcement action where drivers fail to abide by the order.”
Sergeant Steve Down, of the Durham Roads and Armed Policing Unit, said: “We welcome the extended traffic regulation order at Doctors Gate Lane, in Hamsterley Forest, which has already proved successful in driving down anti-social behaviour in the area.
“We are continuing to use a range of methods to enforce the order and identify repeated offenders who pose a danger towards visitors and wildlife by entering the illegal zone.
“Signs have been installed at multiple access points to the forest so if you choose to ignore them, expect to have your vehicle seized and face prosecution.
“To report a nuisance vehicle, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 08000 555 111.”