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Defra ignores equestrians on Independent Forestry Panel

The British Horse Society has just deplored Defra's exclusion of an equestrian representative on the Independent Forestry Panel.

Stop HS2The BHS was quick to point out in a letter to Defra Secretary of State, Caroline Spellman, the dangers posed by the proposed sales of forests to the permissive access equestrians currently enjoy in much of the public forest estate. In highlighting this issue to Government, the BHS offered to provide legal and technical input to the proposed panel.

BHS Chief Executive Graham Cory said: "For a Government which proclaims its willingness to listen, the voice of the equestrian community is routinely ignored. The encouraging words emanating from Ministers during the aborted public consultation exercise were obviously empty and offered merely as a sop. It is scarcely credible that the Government should have ignored the strong case for an equestrian representative on the panel."

Mark Weston, BHS Director of Access, Safety and Welfare, said: "Horse riders currently have access to only 22 percent of public rights of way and horse-drawn vehicle drivers to only 5 percent, so the permissive access they enjoy in our forests is of immense importance. It is imperative that the panel, the constitution of which is not representative of the current users of the forest, is competent to articulate the case of the 4.2m equestrians in the UK. As things stand, we have little confidence that the equestrian voice will be heard, even if equestrians do respond to Defra's encouragement to "become involved" in the review process."

But the Ramblers Chief Executive, Tom Franklin, is on the panel of experts.

Says Graham M Cory, Chief Executive,
The British Horse Society

How disappointing that fine words of ministerial support (free at the point of delivery) have not been translated into a single voice for equestrians on Defra’s forestry advisory panel.  With equestrians limited to a fraction of the national rights of way network, their need for safe off-road routes, which our forests are well placed to supply in part, is routinely ignored by government.  The skewed constitution of the Panel gives us little confidence that ministers intend to invest liberal assurances of support with any practical value.

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