Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by Myra Bennett, British Horse Society County Access Officer, Wiltshire (AB20)

Off-road access for equestrians and non-motorised vulnerable road users.

The British Horse Society (BHS) represents the interests of horse riders in the UK. The BHS has over 100,000 members, 103 Equestrian Access Groups and 268 volunteer Access and Bridleways Officers (October 2019).

1 Whether purely for recreation or when riding or driving professionally, equestrians may use public rights of way (including roads) and open spaces, and may rely on them as the only place they may ride or drive. Routes free from motorised traffic are preferrable, for safety and for freedom from noise and pollution, providing a healthy respite for body and mind.

2 Horse activities engage a high proportion of people with disabilities, women participants and participants over the age of 45. Nearly 40% of those taking part do not participate in other forms of physical activity. All these factors are very important in recognising that equestrianism is vital to the health of a significant section of the population which is known to be at risk.

3 There are 1.8 million people regularly riding horses In Britain, and 3 million people in total who ride regularly or irregularly. 74% of these riders are female.

Horse riding is worth £5,548 per horse to the economy.’

4 44% of riders who ride once a week of less say they would ride more frequently if they had access to safe off-road riding or bridleways. This is the most cited reason that would make people ride more frequently.

5 Horse riding on the road has resulted in at least 4,229 road incidents since 2010 (many incidents go unreported). These tend to involve cars passing horses too fast or too near, resulting since 2010 in 43 human deaths and 315 horse deaths, together with 945 horses injured.

6 England currently has 117,250 miles of recorded public rights of way of which only 22% are bridleways or restricted byways or byways (accessible to horse riders and cyclists, as well as walkers). Horse drawn carriages have access to about 5% of the rights of way (restricted byway and byway). Many of these paths are unusable on horseback because they begin or end at busy, dangerous roads. Provision of off-road access varies across counties, but many riders have no off-road access within a 10 mile radius or more.

[Statistics for Equestrian Access in England and Wales, 2020, BHS)

7 Maintaining, and providing suitable connections between existing rights of way is a vital for reconnecting people, importantly including children who cycle and horseride, with their surroundings, promoting better understanding of the work that takes place in the countryside

8 Please support ‘access to the countryside for all vulnerable non-motorised users’ in this Bill; correctly done, with respect for the needs of farmers and landowners, this is an important way to provide a great public good.

Myra Bennett, British Horse Society County Access Officer, Wiltshire

February 2020

 

Prepared 13th February 2020