Police take action against 4x4 drivers who became stuck whilst illegally off-roading on Rivington Moor
Off-road drivers found churning up Lancashire moorland are being investigated by police after two 4x4s caused "immense environmental damage" at the weekend.
Officers were called to Rivington Moor near Chorley at 7.45pm on Saturday after two 4x4s - a grey Ford Ranger and a red Jeep Wrangler - became stuck on the protected peatland.
Rivington Moor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and it is an offence to "intentionally or recklessly damage, disturb or destroy" land known to be an SSSI or intentionally or recklessly disturb its wildlife.
Despite off-roading being illegal on the moorland, the occupants of the two vehicles were left with no choice but to contact police for help when they became stuck in the mucky peat bogs on the slopes of Noon Hill.
The police control room alerted Bolton Mountain Rescue whose volunteers quickly made their way to the scene to help those stranded on the barren moorland.
The two drivers and four others (one of whom was unable to walk due to a pre-existing injury) were escorted from the moor to nearby Horwich, where the group were picked up by friends.
Their two vehicles had to be abandoned on the moors overnight before they were recovered and towed to the nearest road the following morning.
Officers from Lancashire Police Rural Taskforce also visited the scene where they spoke to the occupants of the vehicles about their reckless driving.
The force says a police investigation is ongoing alongside United Utilities and Natural England. It did not say exactly what action will be taken against the drivers, but did say they will be "dealt with accordingly".
A police spokesman said: "On Saturday (July 24), officers from South Rural Taskforce attended reports that two vehicles were illegally off-roading at Rivington Moor, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
"Officers found two vehicles that had caused extensive damage to the site and were stuck as a result.
"An investigation is now ongoing in relation to the damage caused by these vehicles. These drivers and their vehicles will be dealt with accordingly.
"Driving a vehicle onto a SSSI without the permission of the land owner and Natural England is forbidden.
"Driving onto a peat bog causes immense environmental damage and is dangerous to drivers, the public and biodiversity."
Bolton MRT’s Team Leader Steve Fletcher added: "Driving a vehicle onto a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) without the permission of the landowner and Natural England is forbidden.
"Driving onto a peat bog causes immense environmental damage and is dangerous. This was an incident that should never have happened. I am relieved that the outcome was not more serious.
"Off-road driving also requires training, good judgement and experience. Vehicles and participants should be properly equipped for the conditions and contain the tools and capability to self-recover if necessary."
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