More than 70 people turned up in Rossendale, Lancashire to protest against county council plans to tarmac popular bridleway 676. The demo, organised by Richard Murray, highlighted the riders’ objections to the use of tarmac which can be slippery and dangerous for horses. Despite the heavy rain over 40 horses and 34 walkers turned up in support on 3 January.
It’s been less than two years since the bridleway was offically opened, completed with funding of over £174,000 from Natural England’s Paths for Communities Scheme.
A petition opposing the tarmacking of the bridleway has also been created, which has so far gained 538 signatures. Christine Peat, North West Regional Access and Bridleways Officer who attended the demo said: “Tarmac isn’t a suitable surface for horses, we’ve got other disused railway lines that have been tarmacked, and even with road nails, the horses are slipping the ramps. This is a brand new bridleway created through Natural England Paths for Communities scheme, so why are the council now spending more money tarmacking over it? The petition is still ongoing, and although we had success on 3 January, it’s not over by any stretch of the means.”
Bridleway 676, which links Stacksteads and Waterfoot, is currently surfaced with crushed stone which Lancashire County Council deems vulnerable to erosion and requires more regular maintenance. The tarmacking scheme, part of a four-year project in Rossendale to make two routes using disused railway lines is funded through the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “It aims to make them more accessible for all users including walkers, cyclists, horse riders, people with pushchairs and people who use mobility vehicles. We’ve received a number of comments and have met with horse riders regarding the proposed surfacing on this section of the route and will be considering their views further in January. When completed, the wider project will improve the overall provision for horse riders in the area. The majority of the routes will become adopted bridleways and access will be provided to areas that cannot be currently used by horses, or any other users.”