West Wickham Neighbourhood Plan - submission version January 2022
Representation ID: 59430
Respondent: British Horse Society
Pleased that comments to the previous version of plan have been taken into account.
Important for needs of equestrians to be considered in all future Active Travel proposals
British Horse Society (BHS) comments on West Wickham Neighbourhood Plan March 2022
Firstly we would like to note our appreciation that our comments on the previous version of West Wickham NP have been taken into account.
Sustainable Travel & Road Safety
2.9 The Parish also suffers from persistent speeding, which adds to the perception of risk when travelling on foot or by bicycle or horse. It is very pleasing to see that horse riders have been included.
Conclusions from Community Engagement & Analysis
g) The village lacks sustainable transport routes for safe walking, cycling and horse riding. It is very pleasing to see that horse riders have been considered.
h) The roads are perceived to be unsafe for non-motorised users due to volume and speed of through traffic, especially in Streetly End. It is very pleasing to see all non-motorised users have been considered.
Opportunities for our Neighbourhood Plan
d) The aspirations for improving routes for non-motorised users and increased amenity space in the village have been recorded for future funding opportunities. It is very pleasing to see all non-motorised users have been considered.
5. The re-classification of existing rights of way is not within the scope of the Neighbourhood Plan unless directly related to new development. There are legal implications and it would involve extensive consultation with statutory authorities, landowners and users. Ideally it would have been nice to upgrade some of the many existing footpaths to bridleways to benefit horse riders and cyclists, giving them additional safe off road routes, but we understand that this is not within the scope of this plan.
2.13 There are some areas where the evidence gathered during the forming of this Neighbourhood Plan can be used to guide and support other organisations in targeting improvements in the Parish.
2. There is a desire to reduce the speed of vehicles travelling through the Parish. Excellent initiative.
3. A safe route for non-motorised users between West Wickham, Streetly End and Horseheath is a community priority to encourage sustainable travel and recreation. This is great news and so refreshing to see that you are considering non-motorised users, including horse riders.
Policy WWK/8 Access to the countryside: context and rationale
4.82 Objective 4 of the Cambridgeshire Green Infrastructure Strategy 2011 states that green infrastructure, of which public rights of way are a part, ‘can support healthy and active lifestyles, support good mental health, inspire learning and create a sense of community’. The public right of way network in the Parish is well used. It allows people to enjoy the historic rural landscape of cultivated fields, meadows, hedgerows and ancient woodland along with extensive views to the surrounding countryside and historic settlements (including West Wickham and Streetly End). The varied nature of the countryside that rights of way cross, go through or pass alongside allows for an appreciation of the local flora and fauna and the rights of way in themselves provide a green corridor and habitat for wildlife. Comments during the Character Assessment and Neighbourhood Plan consultation process show that they are highly valued for their contribution to well-being and sense of identity. Could not agree more.
4.83 Although the public rights of way network is accessible from all the settlement areas and relatively well connected, there are areas where connectivity could be improved, for example, by providing new access to the rights of way network through any development or by linking rights of way laterally and parallel to the linear settlement patterns. This would provide greater access and more possibilities for use over both short and long distances. The BHS is continuously striving to join up the fragmented Rights of Way network, particularly the bridleways and byways. We would ideally like all new access to have the higher rights of bridleways or byways to enable it to be used by horse riders and other non-motorised users who cannot use footpaths. If there is any chance to upgrade footpaths to bridleways to improve connectivity this would be beneficial to all non-motorised users.
4.84 The intent of Policy WWK/8 is to protect or enhance the quantity and quality of the existing public rights of way network in the Parish. To enhance the Rights of way network it would be great to upgrade some of the footpaths to bridleways to provide better connectivity for horse riders and other non-motorised users who cannot use footpaths.
Policy WWK/8: Access to the countryside
The existing network of public rights of way, footpaths and bridleways will be retained and enhancements to this network will be encouraged from development proposals located within 300 metres of a public right of way. Proposals which will impact adversely on the public enjoyment of rights of way will not normally be supported. Opportunities to link two or more public rights of way or enhance existing rights of way as part of a development will be supported.
Active Travel Routes
5.5 The village has a good footpath network and it is well used for recreation. However, it was felt that access from West Wickham to Streetly End and on to Horseheath is currently unsatisfactory. Current options for non-motorised users are unpaved paths and field edges or a narrow, unlit, national speed limit section of rural road. The conditions underfoot and the dangers to non-motorised users on the highway present substantial barriers to sustainable travel between Streetly End and West Wickham.
5.7 It is proposed that it should be a priority for the Parish Council to provide a paved route for non-motorised users from West Wickham to Streetly End and, in conjunction with Horseheath Parish Council, on to Horseheath. This is great news and so refreshing to see that you are considering non-motorised users, including horse riders. Any changes must comply with the new Highways Code requirements. Presumably the new route will be classified as a bridleway or a byway so that all non-motorised users can use it. It is essential that the surface of any such path is suitable for all users.
Further Comments and information from the British Horse Society
I welcome the opportunity to comment on the West Wickham Neighbourhood Plan, and to be able to put forward an equestrian point of view which can often be overlooked by Councils when considering Active Travel proposals.
Safe routes for equestrians are desperately needed because the accident statistics in respect of horses on the roads are horrific. There have been 5,784 incidents reported to the British Horse Society since 2010, 44 people have lost their lives, 1350 have been injured, 441 horses have been killed, 1,198 horses injured, and 75% of these incidents involved vehicles passing too close to the horse and/or too fast.
The British Horse Society is the UK’s largest equestrian Charity, with over 119,000 members representing the UK’s 3 million equestrians. Nationally horse riders have access to just 22% of the rights of way network and carriage drivers to just 5%. This network has become increasingly fragmented by roads, which were once safe rural routes, but have now often become busy thoroughfares.
Whilst the Society supports the national initiative to encourage more cycling and walking as part of Active Travel Plans, it is imperative that the Council recognises that Active Travel also includes equestrians.
Central government support for including horses
The government's Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy Safety Review says: "1.2 But safety has particular importance for vulnerable road users, such as walkers, cyclists and horse riders. All road users have an equal right to use the road, and safety and the perception of safety are key factors in determining how far people use these modes of transport. The safer they feel, the more they will use these active modes of travel. The more people who use Active Travel, the fitter and healthier they will be, and the more their communities will benefit from lower congestion and better air quality, among a host of other benefits"(Jesse Norman, Minister for Transport)
Jesse Norman in House of Commons debate on Road Safety, 5 November 2018:
“We should be clear that the cycling and walking strategy may have that name but is absolutely targeted at vulnerable road users, including horse-riders”
And final point by Jesse Norman in debate: “Horse riders are vulnerable road users—there is no doubt about that, and there never has been—and they have been included in the work we are doing.”
Newly Constructed Paths
Any physical creation of new paths to achieve Active Travel objectives within the county is to be welcomed (provided that equestrians are included, as a minimum, on those outside of large town centres), as this will enhance the ability of the public to increase its access to safe off road routes for leisure and commuting. District Authorities should take a strategic approach to Active Travel proposals within their administrative boundary - giving consideration to potential links outside their boundaries that could contribute to a more integrated network and achieve maximum benefit for all users.
Use of Existing Public Rights of Way
I recognise that some of the routes within this consultation could be in urban areas. However, many horses are kept on the urban fringe, so it is important that equestrians are not excluded from routes that exit the urban areas into the surrounding environs.
Active Travel routes should not, in any way, compromise the use of the public rights of way by making them less amenable to existing lawful users of the right of way. In particular:
• Where existing routes are considered as part of the plan, it is important that all user groups are consulted so that the impact on other lawful users can be assessed and, if necessary, alternative measures discussed.
• For each specific proposal which uses a public right of way or minor road, the width, the proposed surface and the impact of increased estimated numbers of cyclists must be considered in order to design a route suitable for all legal users in each specific location.
• Any newly constructed paths should be integrated/physically linked with the existing public rights of way network where possible and needed, clearly waymarked and recorded on either the definitive map or another publicly accessible map as appropriate.
• Where proposed new, or improved routes have crossing points or junctions with the main highway network, appropriate signal-controlled (or even grade-separated) crossings should be provided suitable for all user groups.
• Consideration should be given to the use of ‘Quiet Lanes’where the speed of traffic is reduced.
• Where motorised traffic is to be prohibited on either a right of way or minor road to facilitate cycling and walking, it must be remembered that this is likely to also benefit equestrians. Signage and structures must not impede equestrians.
Other Considerations to Note
Commuting cycling is likely to take place at times other than when recreational use takes place. Thus, a path used for commuting may well be used for recreational travel especially if it provides a circular route by connecting to other paths.
Several categories of public rights of way (bridleways, restricted byways and byways) and minor public roads are already shared by cyclists and other user groups. Thus, as a general principle, we believe that, for maximum public benefit and fairness, the reciprocal approach should be implemented, i.e. that new cycle paths should be shared with other user groups unless there is a specific, unresolvable reason not to do so.
Use of Traffic Regulation Orders to prohibit use of a public right of way by a specific user group for the benefit of cycling needs to be fully justified and take into account the rights of other lawful users. It should be noted that the Defra Statutory Guidance to local authorities on Rights of Way Improvement Plans, 2002, states in para. 2.2.21:
‘There is potential for conflict on ways carrying higher rights between different classes and types of users. Wherever possible proposals for improving rights of way should not unduly benefit one class of user at the expense of another. Improvements that are intended to benefit cyclists, harness-horse drivers, horse riders or walkers should not unduly restrict lawful MPV use of public vehicular rights of way’.
Equestrian use must be considered when Active Travel routes are proposed in new developments, so that new links can be created to the countryside beyond. Where new bridges/underpasses are proposed these should be suitable for equestrian use.
Effect of excluding Equestrians from Active Travel Routes
If equestrians are not an included user on active travel routes, the consequence is that equestrians are left on the carriageway with lorries and cars passing them on the outside and cyclists passing them on the inside, which is another accident waiting to happen. It is therefore important that this aspect is considered in the risk assessment for such routes.
The Health Benefits of Horse Riding in the UK.
(Data comes from research undertaken by the University of Brighton and Plumpton College on behalf of The British Horse Society)
• 68% of questionnaire respondents participated in horse riding and associated activities for 30 minutes or more at least three times a week. Sport England estimate that such a level of sporting activity will help an individual achieve or exceed the government’s recommended minimum level of physical activity.
• Women have been identified in government studies as a social group with relatively low levels of participation in physical activity. Some 93% of questionnaire respondents were women and 49% percent of female respondents were aged 45 or above. These are comparable figures to a major Sport England survey which found that 90 percent of those participating in equestrianism are women and 37 percent of the female participants in equestrianism are aged 45 or above. The gender and age profile of equestrianism is not matched by any other sport in the UK .
• Amongst the horse riders who took part in the survey, 39% had taken no other form of physical activity in the last four weeks. This highlights the importance of riding to these people, who might otherwise be sedentary.
• Horse riders with a long-standing illness or disability who took part in the survey are able to undertake horse riding and associated activities at the same self-reported level of frequency and physical intensity as those without such an illness or disability.
For further information, please see:
Benefits of catering for horses
The British Equestrian Trade Association National Equestrian Survey (2019) indicated:
• £4,174 is spent per horse which represents a significant contribution to the economy
• The value of the equestrian sector is £4.7 billion per annum
• 847,000 horses in Britain
• 1.8 million regular riders of 3 million total
• Lack of access to horses and riding facilities is a barrier for 22% of lapsed riders returning
REASONS TO INCLUDE EQUESTRIANS in the WWNP
In 2017 the equestrian industry excluding the racing industry, contributed £4.3bn to the economy and is the second largest rural employer.
The equestrian industry relies on a network of safe, off road access to the countryside.
It was established at a Cambridgeshire County Council Planning meeting that, with good design, it costs no more to provide access for equestrians.
Horses safely and happily share paths less than 3m wide all over the country.
No report ever of any injury to a third party on any RoWby a horse.
The Cambs RoWIP (Rights of Way Improvement Plan) states that the bridleway network is inadequate, fragmented and in need of improvement. Every shared pedestrian / cycle path further fragments that network.
The majority of cyclists are male (78% : Sustrans) whereas the majority of horse riders are female (BHS).
Horse riding has mental and physical health benefits. Older women particularly participate in this activity, where they may not otherwise exercise.
Horse riders are a vulnerable road user, in the same way as walkers and cyclists.
Equestrian accident statistics
In the UK the period November 2010 to March 2019 road incidents involving horses :
43 humans died
315 horses died
3757 incidents were reported to the British Horse Society (BHS) although it is believed that this represents only 10% of the actual incidents.
The East of England is one of the regions with the highest accident rate.
Cambridgeshire County Council has a Local Transport Policy (LTP), which sets out their transport objectives, policies and strategy for the county. A sister document of the LTP is the Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP). The County Council updated its ROWIP in 2016 in line with the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. You may wish to consult this document when drafting policies dealing with Non-Motorised Users (NMU) and the Public Rights of Way network.
Particular interest should be given to Policies S0A1 ‘Making the Countryside More Accessible’, S0A2 ‘A Safer Activity’, S0A3 ’57,000 New homes’, S0A4 ‘Knowing what’s out there’, S0A5 ‘Filling in the Gaps’, and S0A8 ‘A Better Countryside Environment’– all of which include the need for access for equestrians.
The needs and ambitions of equestrians and their riders is a specialised knowledge area. The BHS Cambridgeshire Access Team, together with the local bridleway groups, are able to provide this specialised knowledge. We would be very happy to provide you with any information you need.