"We would encourage local user groups to work together with local authorities and others. We hope all local authorities will view equestrian access and all recreational routes and spaces positively".
Lord Henley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Defra
"I should be interested to know just how the Coalition hope to get their policies for localism and The Big Society past the local Party heavyweights, who seem to see themselves as dictatorial autocrats who must be obeyed at all times?" says Maureen Comber
She wrote to the Minister
I am very pleased to read the positive messages coming from the Coalition in this regard.
Your last paragraph however struck a cord when you said "We would encourage local user groups to work together with local authorities and others. We hope all local authorities will view equestrian access and all recreational routes and spaces positively".
To which I would reply "If only". Earlier this year I was trying, in my post as a Conservative District Councillor for East Hampshire, to do just that. Unfortunately, rather than help me or indeed allow me to lend them my considerable experience in rights of way matters, to do with a proposed trail to be called 'The Shipwrights Way', I was not allowed to attend the Steering Group meetings even in a listening capacity and when I tried to tell the Leader of my concerns he had me expelled from the Conservative Party!
I should therefore be interested to know just how the Coalition hope to get their policies for localism and The Big Society past the local Party heavyweights, who seem to see themselves as dictatorial autocrats who must be obeyed at all times? Far removed from the Coalition's vision of The Big Society.
I have written about my experiences on www.horseytalk.net under Riders Rights.
When I was a District Cllr I sat on the Planning Committee. We have always been told as volunteers to get our requests for improved bridleways in at an early stage of planning. However I found this was not much help because, for example, if an application came for change of use to industrial use for a farm yard, possibly along one of our narrow, winding country lanes, then the obvious planning gain would be to have an over the hedge bridleway adjacent to the lane. This would avoid any conflict with traffic to the industrial site. However every time I was told that only if the path ran through the application site itself, where the curtiledge had been drawn tightly around the farm buildings, could that be considered, however much other land was in possession of the applicant. That is probably why we have been unable to get few if any bridleways by this means.
Of course you are right to say we should work with other Groups and we have been doing that for many years, but while cyclists have gained by accessing bridleways the use of cycleways is not automatically reciprocal, which is a great disappointment when equestrians have led the way in reasonableness in this respect.
It seems to me that one way forward would be to find a quick and easy way to upgrade some of the footpaths to link up the fragmented bridleways network. That is done already but the problem is it takes literally a lifetime. If the Coalition could shed some of the red tape to do with that, it would be a great benefit to all non-motorised users. 80% of ROW are footpaths and walkers have 100% us of ROW. Horse riders on the other hand may only access the remaining 20% of bridleways, restricted byways and BOATS, so are forced onto the narrow, winding country lanes where the speed limit is set at 60mph. This is not a speed which it is safe to drive and is not there for the safety of anyone, and yes you have guessed it, the Local Highway Authority are immovably negative in this respect.
Thank you for your interest and I hope you will help be able to help us further.