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British Horse Society
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Says Bob Milton

Says Bob Milton Might I say that it is now really important that both equestrians and cyclists act immediately to claim all possible rights of way that meet the highway criteria of nec vi, nec clam, nec precario ie without force, without secrecy and without permission over a twenty year period or even a common law claim may be appropriate for routes/ways through FC land where they are used to access from highway to highway and those so doing ignore permits and/ or specific permitted routes within a forest.

Riders should join their Local Access Forums

Read the letter the BHS has just written to all English Access Forums

Re: Equestrian Access

The British Horse Society works for safer on- and off-road riding and carriage driving through an improved public rights of way network, seeking to create new opportunities of lawful off road riding and carriage driving, and by safer use of our highways by all users.

The UK equestrian industry is currently valued at £7 billion per annum, 4.3 million people regularly engage in horse based leisure and sport, 80% of whom are female, and 53% come from CDE demographics. Horses are an integral part of British culture and society. The BHS is the largest equestrian charity in the UK and represents the interests of the everyday rider and driver. It has a world-wide reputation for its activities in welfare, education and training and on access issues.

The Strategy for the Horse Industry in England and Wales, published in December 2005, was prepared by the British Horse Industry Confederation (including the BHS) in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Strategy includes the following aims:-

  • Aim 2 ‘Increase participation in equestrianism and develop the social contribution of the Horse Industry.’
  • Aim 3 ‘Boost the economic performance of equestrian businesses.’
  • Aim 5 ‘Increase access to off-road riding and carriage driving’, including the encouragement and improvement of urban and suburban riding and carriage driving.

In England the length of the public right of way network currently amounts to 188,700km, of which ONLY 22% is available to horse riders and horse-drawn vehicle drivers have only 5%. Also, many equestrian rights of way are now disconnected from each other because the roads that should connect them are no longer safe for equestrian use because of the speed, size and volume of motorised traffic on them. Many equestrians have no access to a safe local route. There is much therefore that needs to be done to provide parity of access for the growing number of equestrians.

The Society fully appreciates all councils are experiencing unprecedented cut backs in their budgets and that access is generally not a priority. And it is precisely because such resources are so severely limited that when such public funding is available this should achieve maximum value and provide access for ALL non-motorised users. If all Councils were to adopt this default assumption all users would see measurable gains.

The three different pieces of legislation listed below have increased rights of access to the countryside to walkers, without similar provision for equestrians and other users. The Society would welcome any new access opportunities that your forum is able to secure to address this unfair situation for equestrians, and consequently, to improve access for cyclists as well.

The Society is keen to hear from Local Access Forums that currently do not have an equestrian representative, so that we can highlight this fact to our own members to encourage them to apply and ensure that relevant local equestrian access issues are passed to their area forum for consideration.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Weston,
Director of Access, Safety and Welfare,
The British Horse Society. 02476 840560

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