‘Fantastic news’: hopes to save more off-road riding as 2026 deadline scrapped

  • The 2026 deadline for all bridleways to be marked on the definitive map has been scrapped, following “extensive lobbying”.

    Historcial routes for walkers, riders and carriage drivers were at risk of being lost for ever, unless they were marked on the map by 1 January 2026.

    But this deadline has now been repealed, taking with it the time pressure access groups faced to protect rights of way. Landowners will also continue to have the “right to apply” to divert or close rights of way in certain circumstances.

    The British Horse Society (BHS) has welcomed the news.

    “This is fantastic news for our equestrian community who already have very little off-road access available to them, meaning they have no choice but to travel on the road,” said BHS director of access Mark Weston.

    “We were delighted to see the Welsh government abolish their cut-off date last year for Wales, and this is brilliant news that England will now be following in the same way.”

    A BHS statement added: “The BHS has lobbied extensively for a significant extension to the cut-off date to ensure that the health, well-being and economic benefits of many unrecorded routes are protected.”

    The charity thanked its volunteers, who have been “working frantically to save as many routes as possible before the deadline”, adding that the removal of the cut-off date means “more time to research and save unrecorded routes”.

    “Project 2026, enabled with financial assistance from Sport England through British Equestrian, has been a great success with over 2,100 DMMO [definitive map modification order] applications submitted to over 50 authorities,” the BHS statement said.

    “The society now looks forward to continuing this much-needed work so that these historical routes are recorded to ensure more safe off-road routes are available to equestrians.”

    A Defra spokesman told H&H: “As we have recognised in our 25-year environment plan, public access is key to connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing.

    “The Government has decided to take forward a streamlined package of measures in order to help enhance the way that rights of way are recorded and managed.”

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