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Horseytalk.net/Hoofbeat EXCLUSIVE

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Are your bridleways as bad as this?

Because if they are, you can sue your local Council for not maintaining them properly.

This is the bridleway that cost Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council £10,000.

A local rider sued the Council for personal injuries caused, she said, by the Council's failure to maintain the bridleway.

The rider was hacking her horse along the bridleway when her horse lost his footing, stumbled and fell over onto his face. The rider was thrown over the horse’s right shoulder and broke her right arm.

The rider blamed the condition of the bridleway for her horse losing its footing. The bridleway was in a general poor state of repair. In addition rocks had fallen onto it and vegetation had not been cut back for some time. In places the bridleway was very difficult to navigate. Numerous complaints had been sent to the local authority before and after the incident, and the bridleway association had extensively lobbied the local authority to undertake repairs to the bridleway.

The above were the actual photographs shown to the Judge to highlight the poor state of the bridleway.

The local authority said they were only responsible for maintaining the bridleway in its current state as opposed to improving it and that their budgetary constraints prevented them from undertaking any works to the bridleway.

Judgment was given in favour of the rider on the basis that a bridleway was part of the highway and, therefore, subject to the inspection and maintenance obligations contained in section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, and on the basis that the bridleway association’s evidence established that, despite inspections carried out in 2005 and February 2007, the bridleway had been in broadly the same condition for a number of years.

The Judge noted that the local authority was unable to provide any detail as to these inspections, other than to point to documents which recorded the bridleway as having "passed" inspections.

The bridleway association provided clear and compelling evidence that the state of the bridleway had been the same for a long time; undermining the adequacy of the inspection regime. At trial it was common ground that the local authority’s duty extended to putting highways into repair, although not to improving them.

The Judge found that the position was as illustrated in the photographs obtained at the time of the accident. The Judge rightly considered that the position illustrated in the photographs meant that the highway was out of repair. Accordingly, he found that the local authority failed to discharge its burden of establishing its section 58 defence. The rider was awarded damages over £12,000.00 and the local authority was also ordered to pay the rider’s legal expenses.

Which must mean if your local bridleways are as bad, if not worse, than the bridleway shown in the photographs, you are entitled to sue your local authority for failing to maintain them in proper condition.

What is good for one local Council must surely apply to all local Councils.

Are your local bridleways worse than the bridleway shown in the photographs?

Send us details - and photographs

The opposite point of view
"Why don't riders talk to the councils instead.
Or even better, organise volunteers to maintain the paths."

Read what Ms P, Herefordshire has to say

Dear sir

The opposite point of viewYour e-mail encouraging riders to sue their councils made me furious. This is exactly the sort of bad publicity you don't want for riders! I own approx 260 acres of farmland and in the past (40 years ago), like most farmers in our area, my father was more than happy for riders (and walkers) to ride (or walk) across our fields, even though there was no offical route. As children, we rode everywhere and anywhere and there was never a thought about compensation or suing someone if you had an accident. Nowadays, because of this apalling trend of "sue for everything", there is no way that I would allow anyone to ride on my land. (The only exception is the hunt who know the risks and are extremely competent at galloping over appaling terrain, much worse than the little bit of stone and mud in your photos.). Likewise, I am closing my riding school, as is my friend who runs an excellent neighbouring one, because it is simply not worth the hassle anymore.

Dont you realise that for every "successful" case when thousands are paid out for relatively minor accidents, the insurance policies, yours and mine, go up. Even though I had never had a claim on my Riding School activites, my insurance has been going up and up to an impossible level. The council insurance cover also will cost more and guess what? You and I are paying for it. Don't you think that is insane? Why don't riders talk to the councils instead. Or even better, organise volunteers to maintain the paths. If you want something, you have to work for it. Don't expect others to do it for you and don't complain that it is not good enough when you have done nothing towards it. Riding is dangerous. Accidents happen. If you want protection you need to get your own accident cover just as you do for a sking etc....
Don't expect others to pay for it.

Yours Ms P, Herefordshire


Do you think we should sue Councils to get them to maintain the bridleways as they are required to do by law ?

Do you think Ms P is right and we should maintain them ourselves?

Click here to have your say and vote yes or no.

That bridleway. More information.


This bridleway is in such a condition as Tameside have been fighting a flooding court case with us since 2002 [our first flood was September 2001, our house has been flooded a further 4 times and the garden over 80 times!].

The problem arose because TMBC drained surface water into a drain under the bridlepath even though they knew the drain was in poor condition. Then to make matters worse they resurfaced the path changing the natural overflow of water from one of the moorland streams such that it entered the same inadequate drain

Tameside refused to do any works after September 2002 as legal action was pending.

Judgement was found in our favour in May 2009. Tameside went to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was refused. They are still arguing about settlement. We are due back in court September 2010.

This case could cost Tameside in excess of £250,000.

The figure of £250,000+ is just the cost for repeated repairs to our house and garden, preventative measures we have undertaken and our legal costs. It does not include their legal costs!

David Renshaw

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