Animal welfare clash over plan for new cycling trail at Sutton Bank

The view from Sutton Bank where the North York Moors National Park Authority wants to create a new 2.8km cycling trail. 'Picture by James Hardisty.
The view from Sutton Bank where the North York Moors National Park Authority wants to create a new 2.8km cycling trail. 'Picture by James Hardisty.
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Animal welfare concerns have been raised over plans to create a new cycle trail at one of Yorkshire’s best known landmarks.

The North York Moors National Park Authority wants to build a 2.8km cycle loop within a conifer plantation at Sutton Bank in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire to boost tourism and recreation in the park, but the proposal has sparked opposition.

Established racehorse trainer Kevin Ryan fears the development will distress horses kept at stables that he runs nearby, threatening his business’ future.

Historic England, the Government’s conservation agency, have also raised concerns about the impact of the trail on 3,000-year-old prehistoric features at the adjacent Cleave Dyke and has called for an archaeological study to be carried out.

In a report by national park planners, officers explain the proposal consists of a reorganisation of existing trails at Sutton Bank that will “reduce conflict between different users”.

A wider cycling track would be created to allow cyclists to ride side by side and the changes would mean the trails become usable year-round and would allow for “a relatively small number” of cycling events such as gravel or cyclo-cross to be held.

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But, objecting to the plans, Mr Ryan, of Hambleton Lodge, said: “The increased number of cyclists and people into the area will greatly increase the risk to our horses.

“We have had two serious injuries to horses in the past year due to the lack of care of cyclists and this new plan would increase the number even further, greatly increasing the risks to my business.”

He added: “The noise that would be created by a larger number of people would be a serious risk to my horses. They could get very wound up which would cause them to get fractious and increase the risk of them injuring themselves in their boxes.

“My livelihood relies on the safety and welfare of my horses.”

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Two neighbouring farmers have also objected to the scheme due to difficulty negotiating past parked cars on the narrow roads near the trails.

In their report, national park officers say: “The proposal will remove the promoted cycle paths in the part of the site closest to the stables, with the new looped routes being further away,” adding: “It is anticipated that this proposal will help reduce the risk of interaction between cyclists and racehorses from Hambleton Lodge stables passing on their way to the gallops.”

Officers also reported that yellow lines have been extended along the road from Sutton Bank visitor centre to address current parking concerns and that extra car parking spaces are already planned at the visitor centre.

Michael Graham, who as director of park services is the applicant for the development, said the new trail would build on Yorkshire’s growing reputation as the UK capital of cycling,

“One of the key motivations in creating the new trail is that it will greatly reduce the possibility for interaction with horses, which has proved an issue with the existing route,” he said.

The plan is recommended for approval subject to an archaeological survey and other conditions, and will be decided at a meeting of the national park’s planning committee next week.