Calls have been made for an extension to the 2026 deadline for the recording of “vital” bridleways.
Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, historical routes for walkers, riders and carriage-drivers will be lost if not formally recorded on the definitive map by the cut-off date of 1 January 2026.
A Government petition asking for the deadline to be extended to 2036 has to date received 7,800 signatures. The petition has until 4 February to reach 10,000 signatures, following which the Government will respond.
“The legal process for recording a path, often done by volunteers, is time-consuming and may take several years,” the petition states.
“There is not enough time left to record all our footpaths and bridleways. Our rights to walk and ride through the land are part of our national heritage, these rights should not be lost because of an arbitrary deadline.”
British Horse Society director of access Mark Weston told H&H the society is “lobbying hard” in England for the 2026 deadline to be extended, but by five years to 2031, adding that there is provision to extend the deadline under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.
“Any extension for a longer period would require new legislation, something that would be hard to achieve at present. The society’s access field officers, access and bridleway officers and 2026 volunteers are currently working to save as many historical routes as possible from the cut-off date but need more time to ensure that important routes are not extinguished,” he said.
“It is excellent to see the wider public pursuing this issue, as it affects more than just horse riders. It shows that this is an issue that is wide-reaching and touches all our lives.”
The time to save certain bridleways is ticking down. Lucy Elder looks at ongoing local and national efforts and how
Work included cutting back trees and scrub to form a 4m-wide area and creating a new drainage system to stop
Mr Weston added that the pandemic and lockdown has illustrated how “vital” safe off-road access is for the health and wellbeing of equestrians.
“Providing access for equestrians also provides access for walkers and cyclists, therefore providing best value,” he said.
“In England and Wales, equestrians do not currently have equality of access; horse riders have access to just 22% of the public rights of way network, whilst carriage drivers have access to just 5%.”
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