Restrictions on horses using an Essex beach has been met with fierce objections from local riders, who say they are being treated unfairly.
More than 2,600 riders have signed a petition to reinstate horse access to Frinton beach following the local council’s new restrictions, which came into force over Easter.
Signs have been erected announcing that from Good Friday (2 April) horses would be excluded from the beach until 30 September, after which they will only be allowed access until 11am.
Previous rules permitted riding on the beach until 9am and after 6pm in the summer, and unrestricted access during the winter.
Tendring District Council said the move was in response to “issues reported last season” when lockdown restrictions prompted an influx of both “out-of-area” riders and holidaymakers to the beach.
While local riders usually obeyed the rules, others were attempting to use the packed beach in the middle of hot summer days and at high tide, when the available space was reduced.
Mike Carran, Tendring District Council’s assistant director for economic growth and leisure, said: “Unfortunately a small minority of riders have caused issues in the past, by not respecting the presence of other beach goers or the designated access routes.
“This is disappointing, when we know the vast majority of riders – especially those based locally – are responsible, and seeing a horse ride along the edge of the surf is wondrous to behold.
“Access to beaches for horses is relatively rare in this country, meaning Frinton becomes a magnet for this activity – and it is important we safeguard this for the future.”
But local equestrian campaigners have said the council is not treating all beach users equally and that the targeting of riders is disproportionate.
“They said a small minority of riders have made this happen but a small minority of dog walkers and a small minority of holidaymakers also cause problems, so how come we’ve been tarred and they haven’t been?” Emma Overton, a local horse transporter who has started a petition against the ban, told H&H.
She argued that the problem stemmed from limited signage on the beach, which made it difficult for out-of-area riders to know the rules — and that the council ignored attempts to find a solution.
“We knew the Frinton Residents Association were getting annoyed with horses going across the greensward, so we asked for more signage for people who come from out of the area.
“There was just one sign on a gate, which was easy to walk past and not see, and one other a mile further up — but they said more would ruin the image of the beach.”
Emma added that she did her best to educate people about the rules with posts on social media and that she also had information about using the beach on her website, just in case riders who were renting her horsebox planned a visit.
Local riders had also proposed other solutions to the problem, including horse permits, as well as suggesting moving a bridleway further towards a quieter end of the beach.
“Everything we were putting in front of them, they weren’t willing to negotiate on,” Emma added.
She subsequently launched a petition to fight the ban, which has received “more support than I ever dreamed”.
“I can understand riders not being allowed to use the beach on summer evenings — I’ve been down there myself and know it can still be busy — but we would like access in the mornings,” said Emma, who has been using the beach for 35 years. “An 11am restriction in winter also doesn’t work with the tides and daylight hours; the beach is quiet then, so horses should have full access.”
Alicia Wilkinson, a local four-star event rider and trainer, has also been using the beach for essential competition fitness work for her horses for many years.
“I understand the decision to ban riders after 6pm as there are still many families, walkers and dogs around but I’m really disappointed that they have banned the mornings, I feel they could have continued allowing riders to come in the mornings of low tide and make the rule of being off by 8am. It is early but those that want to use the beach for training will go,” she said.
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A follow-up statement from Tendring District Council added that it hoped the restrictions were “not a permanent measure”.
“As with all risk management issues this measure will be kept under review; but with visitor numbers forecast to be even higher than last year, this will be difficult to do before the end of the summer. Likewise we are aware of suggestions of a permit system, but again this is not something which could be implemented in the short-term if it were found to be viable,” Mr Carran said.
“We understand this is a difficult position, particularly for the majority of responsible riders who would like to make use of the coastline.”
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