Sorry girls, there doesn’t seem to be any
The original purpose of Part IV of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act (NPAACA) 1949 was to record and protect rights of way for walkers and horse riders.
But now Government seems to have completely forgotten that: instead it is channelling practically all the available funding towards walking and cycling (see written answer from the under Secretary of State for Transport). This is damaging the quality and availability of equestrian access. It also means that we are frequently missing out on inclusion in Green Infrastructure schemes as many new Greenways exclude us.
We may not be able to help meet the government’s sustainable transport targets but we have a lot of other things going for us – recreational horse riding is:
- good for your health
- it provides regular exercise
- it contributes a surprisingly large amount to the local economy (especially around towns and cities)
- it is particularly popular among women and young girls
- it can increase business and tourism opportunities
We urge Government not to edit us out of the picture – all that is needed is for the guidance to be rebalanced in favour of our inclusion.
Budget for rights of way maintenance and improvement
Responding to a recent enquiry about bridleway funding from one of our members, DEFRA Minister Dan Rogerson directed her to Rights of Way Improvement Plans (ROWIPs), which local authorities are required to compile under the CROW Act 2000.
ROWIPs were intended to provide local authorities with a long term stable solution for rights of way funding. But as the Ramblers Association Report Paths in Crisis 2013 reveals, the funds that they receive through these is steadily being reduced as ROWIPs become integrated with Local Transport Plans (LTPs).
This is fair enough, except that recent structural reforms to local authority funding (DFT 2012) have refocused the way LTPs distribute money to ROWIPs. The emphasis now being entirely on sustainable transport i.e. walking and cycling (see Natural England Guidance & Good Practice).
And finally – the implementation of the Cut-off Date (Deregulation Bill 2014 Clause 23)
When the cut-off- date (1st January 2026) for claiming rights of way was included in the CROW Act 2000 (Clause 56) government was advised that it should only be implemented if sufficient long term funding resources is in place. Natural England’s 2008 review of the Discovering Lost Ways Project also expressed that view. More recently, the Impact Assessment which accompanies the Deregulation Bill warned that:
“Resource constraints in local authorities could reduce the number of cases considered and so undermine/negate the non-monetised benefits of the stakeholder working group proposals.”
As we have pointed out; resource constraints are only too real where bridleways are concerned and senior DEFRA staff have confirmed there will be no dedicated funding. Therefore it is difficult to see how local authorities will be able to absorb the additional costs of processing our perfectly justified and valid claims.
Successive governments and their advisors have acknowledged that our network is still woefully incomplete for various historical reasons (see Making the Definitive Map), but seem prepared to walk (or cycle) away from a job half done.