Campaign for indoor arena law change to protect riding schools

  • Campaigners have contacted the Government asking for changes to the current law on indoor schools. H&H finds out why this is thought to be so important, and what action is being taken

    CAMPAIGNERS for riding schools are warning the Government to amend the law in relation to indoor schools, or risk mass closures should restrictions tighten again.

    Pammy Hutton, of the Talland School of Equitation, Gloucestershire, and Tim Downes of Ingestre Stables, Staffordshire, have written to MPs to “highlight the extreme plight of riding schools in England, which are currently being victimised by legislation that is not in line with other industries and commercial ventures”.

    H&H has reported on the perceieved inconsistency of government coronavirus legislation, under which initially last year, indoor arena use was banned in line with that of other indoor sports facilities.

    The Government then agreed that owing to their agricultural and airy nature, indoor arenas counted as outdoors for the purposes of the law, but in the legislation announced days before the 29 March sport restart date, this had changed. It is hoped indoor arenas will be allowed to fully open on 17 May, but Pammy and Tim, who have been campaigning for full use to be allowed on behalf of riding schools, are concerned about possible future restrictions.

    “If legislation does not alter and the allocation of funding is not re-evaluated, if further restrictions become necessary, there will be no facilities left in England for the general public to participate in recreational riding,” the letter states.

    Pammy told H&H that although she is hopeful of a 17 May reopening, she is taking nothing for granted, especially given the new India Covid-19 variation.

    “I won’t rest until the law is changed,” she said.

    “Let’s say 17 May comes and everything goes back to normal, but what if what happened last year happens again?” she asked. “We’re still in the place we were last year and I’m not waiting till September to find that law’s still there.”

    Pammy is hopeful the letter will get to high places as Tim Warren, a former council leader who now runs Shelford Warren, helping clients “navigate national and local government”, has flagged it to MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and chancellor Rishi Sunak.

    Mr Warren, who was alerted to the issue by his friend and Badminton course-builder Eric Winter’s wife Lizzel, told H&H he has had dealings with Mr Sunak, and Mr Rees-Mogg is his MP.

    “He’s always been very helpful and diligent, and will always do what he can for constituents,” said Mr Warren, who also runs an equestrian business importing and selling young horses. “MPs get thousands of emails every day but I can ring Jacob and have a chat, and hopefully he’ll pass it on to [sports minister] Oliver Dowden.

    “It seems ridiculous that you can go into shops but not indoor arenas, and if I can help, I will.”

    Defra and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport refused to comment.

    You might also be interested in…