Lancashire bridleways could be threatened by a reorganisation of rights of way services at Bolton Council — a measure likely to be repeated across the country.

Access groups the Institute of Public Rights of Way (IPROW) and British Horse Society (BHS) are concerned that reducing funding and manpower will have a negative impact on the condition of paths and bridleways.

North Yorkshire County Council will slash £100,000 from its budget and a spokesman for Norfolk County Council said:

“We have a £155m spending gap to fill over the next three years. It’s difficult to justify keeping public rights of way at full budget if we’re cutting, for example, child protection and services for the elderly.”

A Bolton Council spokesman confirmed that public rights of way would cease to be a separate department in March.

Mark Weston, director of access, safety and welfare at the BHS, said: “Riders should battle over-the-top cuts in funding by telling their local councillors how important these routes are to them.”

It is also in councils’ interests to keep paths safe.

In April, Gaynor Goodall won £12,000 damages from Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council after being thrown off her horse on a bridleway near Stalybridge, Cheshire (news, 1 April).

The judge found the local authority had failed in its duty to inspect and maintain the path.

This article was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound 2 December 2010