FANS OF The Fast Show will remember Simon and Lindsey as the off-road bores who spent more time arguing over “epic off-road expeditions” and getting stuck than actually going anywhere.
Now environmental campaigners are failing to see the funny side, after accusing the band of off-roading enthusiasts that were caricatured by Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse of destroying parts of the Lake District National Park.
A square mile of land north of Coniston Water, once owned by Beatrix Potter, is at the centre of a complaint to the United Nations over claims that the national park is violating its status as a world heritage site by failing to prevent four-wheel drive vehicles from tackling ancient farm tracks.
Campaigners claim the number of big, heavy 4x4s is devastating farm tracks, stripping back tons of soil to expose the bedrock beneath, and leaving them largely impassable to essential farm vehicles.
The off-roading enthusiast say they have every right to drive the routes, which consist of 78 miles of ‘green lanes’.
According to The Times, Save the Lake District, a campaign group, has written to the UN’s cultural organisation, Unesco, accusing the national park authority of neglecting its responsibility to protect and conserve. “Through its current management practice . . . the Lake District National Park Authority contributes to the destruction of the Lake District’s unique agro-pastoral landscape,” the letter said.
The complaint is backed by a petition of more than 6,000 signatures. Its focus is two tracks near High Tilberthwaite farm, which Potter, the children’s author, bought in 1929 and was later acquired by the National Trust.
Mark Eccles, head of management at the park authority, said it would be “preferable if people did not take vehicles on these routes” but added off-roading was legal.
Unesco said that it had referred the complaint to its London office, which said the letter had been passed to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A department spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this issue and are working with the Lake District National Park Authority to ensure the continued protection of the world heritage site.”
Nick Fieldhouse, whose off-roading company Kankku regularly sends clients along the routes at the heart of the complaint, dismissed objections. “Everything does damage,” he told The Times, when asked about the impact of his cars. He added that his company was willing to repair tracks but was not allowed to. “In the same way you can’t go out and repair the M6, we can’t go out and repair that lane,” he said.