National parks have been given new powers by Defra to control the use of 4x4s, motorbikes and other vehicles on their land which could increase safety for horseriders.

Since 1 October parks authorities have been given leave to make traffic regulation orders within their boundaries on rights of way and unsurfaced roads. The new measures are part of a package designed to curb excessive or inappropriate use of vehicles away from ordinary roads. “The past few years have seen a growing debate about the appropriateness and sustainability of the use of byways by motor vehicles for recreation,” said a spokesman for Defra.

“The government considers that a level of recreational use that may be acceptable in some areas is inappropriate in national parks, which are designed to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage as well as enable people to enjoy their special qualities,” he said Riding groups have welcomed the news saying the new powers will help ease the situation of horses, cars and motorbikes vying for space on paths.

Catherine Moorcroft runs the bridleways.co.uk website, which provides a directory of national routes suitable for horses. “We walk all routes before they go on to the website and some are very difficult to negotiate on foot, never mind on horseback, because of the rutting caused by tyres,” she said.

“Riders would like to limit the number of vehicles on their local routes and keep them in better condition, so this is good news.” In the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire and Yorkshire, bridleways make up just 7% of the off-road route network and, of these, almost half are tarmacked, meaning vehicles can use them too.

“Riders are always telling me they have nowhere to go and are forced to ride on the roads,” said local British Horse Society (BHS) access officer Karen Hinckley. “Most of our bridleways are old drovers’ routes and are very narrow with no passing places, so if they are open to all traffic can be quite dangerous for riders,” she said.