How the new Agriculture Bill could help horse riders protect bridleways

The Agriculture Bill has been welcomed by the British Horse Society
The Agriculture Bill has been welcomed by the British Horse Society
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The British Horse Society has welcomed the new Agriculture Bill and its support for public access to the countryside.

Mark Weston, director of access for the charity, said he was particularly pleased to see the Secretary of State’s power to provide financial assistance for supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside under the ‘public money for public goods’ scheme which will replace the EU funded Basic Payment Scheme.

“In 2018, the BHS lobbied with other user groups for the Agriculture Bill to recognise the provision of access as a public good,” he said.

“As part of this we also asked members to contact their local MP to support the BHS call for farmers and landowners to be paid to widen the rights of way network available to horse riders, and to help maintain the network as part of any future subsidy scheme under the Bill.”

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The BHS is currently campaigning to preserve routes around the country which have historically been used for horse riding and carriage driving.

There are a number of routes across the country which, although existing in law have never been marked on the Definitive Map – the legal record of public rights of way.

In 2000, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was introduced in England and Wales.

Under this act routes not recorded as a bridleway before the cut-off date of 2026 will be lost.

The BHS said its aim is to safeguard these routes for public use and warned riders that just because they currently ride on a route doesn’t mean it’s recorded and protected from being extinguished.

Speaking after the Agriculture Bill passed its first reading in Parliament, Mr Weston said: “In England and Wales, horse riders currently have access to only 22 per cent of the public rights of way network, and carriage drivers to just five per cent.

“The BHS welcomes any incentive designed to enhance and extend the rights of way network and the society remains committed to the safeguarding of these public assets to ensure that equestrians, cyclists and walkers can continue to use safe off-road routes in the future.”

The BHS has produced a 2026 toolkit to provide advice on how to safeguard routes. There are also grants available to help cover the costs of making Definitive Map Modification Order applications to local councils.