BIKERS have launched a crowd-funding campaign to take Durham County Council to court over the closure of a country lane.

The Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) objected earlier this year when the authority banned motor vehicles from Hexham Lane, Wolsingham.

It now aims to raise £10,000 through an online campaign to fund a legal battle they hope will lead to the reopening of the byway.

The 2.5 mile track, north of Thistlewood Lane, was made a byway open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians, motor and horse drawn vehicles following a public inquiry in 2005. Prior to this it was part bridleway and part footpath.

From 2010 the council’s access and rights of way team received numerous reports that the condition of the lane was deteriorating due to motor vehicles and in 2012 off-road bike and 4x4 groups were urged to try to reduce damage.

But council officers said the following winter it worsened so drainage work was carried out in 2013 and only walkers were allowed to use the byway.

In March this year the authority made a permanent order banning vehicles and horse drawn vehicles in a bid to safeguard the historic route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The TRF had argued that trail riders were unfairly blamed for the state of the track and felt the problem could be solved without shutting the byway, which was part of a popular route between Teesdale and north Durham.

Members said they care for the countryside which should be open to responsible riders to enjoy on road legal bikes and that they contribute to rural economies.

Officials have since taken legal advice and decided to challenge the council’s decision and served papers on the authority earlier this week.

Richard Simpson, of the TRF, said: “Ten thousand pounds sounds like a lot of money but the reality is that we would only need a thousand people who care about saving the UK’s historic road heritage to donate £10 each and we would be there.

“A win here for the TRF would follow recent significant legal triumphs over councils in other parts of the country and serve as a deterrent against further irrational closures.

“We hope instead to work with councils and National Park authorities to promote and maintain a sustainable network of green roads for all classes of user throughout England and Wales.”

Within days of TRF launching its online fundraising campaign at supporters had pledged more than £3,000.

Officials want to start legal procedures by October and, if successful, have the lane reopened in 2016.

Durham County Council said it was unable to comment due to the legal proceedings.