ESSEX BRIDLEWAYS ASSOCIATION
We seem to be working ever more closely with the British Horse Society, especially since our Sue extended her remit to become the BHS area representative in addition to her huge task of Bridleway Development Officer with EBA. The issue of bridleways, off-road access, safety on our roads, claims relating to unrecorded or lost routes, to name but a few, is not going to go away anytime soon, and in fact with 2026 looming ever closer on the horizon, I would imagine our work will become rather more frenetic in the near future! If any of you should be puzzling over the relevance of 2026, then you have missed my many strictures on the importance of claiming any bridleway routes which may not be on the definitive map, or those routes which may have become closed or blocked, even though we were pretty sure at some time that they were bona fide bridleways! 2026 is going to be the cut-off year for our claims for all these routes, and it will be a sad day indeed if we see wonderful PROW opportunities lost to horse riders for ever.
Just so you are aware of the scale of Access issues dealt with by the BHS in the UK, I have gathered a few significant statistics from their 2017 workload: 170 planning applications; 5,427 orders, 786 Public Inquiry notices, and 24,180 queries from the public.
Currently, BHS are grappling with the prospect of a new Agricultural Policy, a bill which will plan for the future of our countryside, having a huge impact on the quality of our environment, and those who want to enjoy it, work in it, and preserve it in all its beauty. I know I mentioned a petition relating to this bill several months ago, when various organisations took a uniform stance in trying to ensure permanent access rights for all user groups to the countryside.
If you are a member or follower of Essex Bridleways Association, you will probably look at our web site, where you will hopefully have seen our latest challenge on the Campaigns page. However, just in case you have not seen this, or it has passed you by, perhaps I could nudge you into action which would not take many minutes of your time, and which may just help the future of horse riders’ access to the countryside in future years. We would really like you to write to your MP, asking them to support the British Horse Society’s call for farmers and landowners to be paid to widen the network available to horse riders and to help maintain the network as part of any future subsidy scheme under the Agriculture Bill. The horse industry in the U.K. is worth £4.3 billion, and it is important to agriculture and land use, so it isn’t a paltry hobby for the upper classes, but an important pastime and way of life for many hard-working people. Our website does have a draft letter to help you, and also this link, www.writetothem.com , to help you identify and contact your MP of parks and open spaces, which are apparently worth more than £34 billion annually to the economy. An assessment of the varied economic values of factors such as increased life satisfaction, reduced visits to the GP etc., produced an evaluation of savings to the NHS of at least £111 million annually, with individuals enjoying both an improved mental and physical health. These health benefits have always been associated with the lifestyle we horsy people follow; fresh air, exercise and enjoyment of our open spaces. It takes some beating!