Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) local transport plan (2015 – 2031) adopted June 2016
The updating of the County Council’s local transport plan went through consultation stages earlier this year. A response on behalf of all equestrians was submitted by BHS Gloucestershire, at least one of the county’s equestrian access groups responded, and other individuals and groups may have responded too.
The transport plan is concerned with journeys, and ways in which both people and freight may travel, but the consultation documents touched on health and well-being, journeys for leisure as well as utility, and tourism possibilities.
Amazingly, the consultation documents did not mention equestrians at all.
GCC adopted the plan in June 2016, and we are very pleased to see that horse riders and carriage drivers are now recognised as vulnerable non-motorised users of roads as well as of public rights of way.
Below are the relevant sections of the plan:
Policy Document 4 – Highways
4.5 –Enabling development – GCC will implement the following policy proposals:
• To ensure all new highway schemes which are delivered by the Local Highway Authority, developers or scheme promoters are designed using the principles of manual for Gloucestershire streets (MfGS). MfGS is guidance primarily based on manual for streets and includes reference to the county’s cycle facilities guidelines (2012).
All schemes on the local highway network will be subject to appropriate context reports and audits (including road safety, non motorised users, walking, cycling and quality audits) before final designs are approved.
4.11 – GCC will support the rights of way and countryside access improvement plan in identifying and seeking to support measures to improve safety, accessibility and the quality of the experience for walkers, horse riders, carriage drivers and cyclists where there is an identified need.
13.1.2 Gloucestershire’s iconic landscapes, natural environment, heritage and culture collectively offer an exceptionally high quality place in which to live, work and play. The extent to which both visitors and residents can access interesting, welcoming streets, open space and countryside is an important determinant of health and well being both directly, in terms of physical and mental health, and indirectly in terms of its high quality tourism and recreation offer and the investment this brings. In some parts of the county increased safety and accessibility for walkers, horse riders and cyclists may enable better community connectivity, support economic prosperity and provide wide social benefits. The county is a visitor destination for walkers and cyclists and recreational horse riding is recognised as a significant element of the rural tourism economy.
13.1.3 Whilst pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders are legitimate highway users, many are deterred by traffic. Gloucestershire’s rural areas are renowned for their attractiveness, but their roads can intimidate non motorised users, even where distances may be close enough for more walk, cycle or horse riding trips to occur. Some villages, towns and open spaces can be ‘hemmed in’ by a road network characterised by high volume or fast moving traffic, or by narrow lanes with bends and poor visibility.
13.1.4 The county benefits from several Sustrans National Cycle Network routes (based on a mixture of traffic free and quietly trafficked routes), three high profile national trails and one named equestrian route. These are in the context of a huge web of route connections which vary in terms of their availability, status and quality at the local level.
13.1.5 At the heart of this is the public rights of way network.
Gloucestershire has about 3509 miles of public rights of way; one of the longest networks managed by any county. It is used predominantly by walkers, but 533 miles (15%) of it is bridleway ‐ where horse riding and cycling are also lawful uses.
13.1.6 The GCC Rights of Way and Countryside Access Improvement Plan acts in tandem with the LTP to provide better connected rural access networks. Both public rights of way and unsurfaced roads available for motorised vehicular users are important to walkers, horse riders, carriage drivers and cyclists. They can provide links in the network of other paths to complete coherent routes.
13.1.7 The Public Rights of Way Improvement Plan (6.2.2/3) states that "it is desirable that the pedestrian, cycle and horse riding routes are integrated with the road network. This means ideally ensuring that the path network is cohesive and that where a route has to cross a busy road, a safe crossing point is provided where practicable". It adds that this also means "provision of well‐maintained verges for horse riders and walkers especially where this provides links between sections of the public rights of way network. The danger to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders from traffic is very real and it is important to reduce the risks. Access needs to be considered in the context of the local transport plan and with local planning processes. Encouraging people away from busy routes, agreeing measures to safeguard quieter routes and improving accessibility to and within green space".
13.1.8 Whilst the large number of tracks and bridleways in Gloucestershire are hugely valued by local people and the wider tourism industry, they are quite fragmented. Bridleway routes may involve cyclists and horse riders having to ride along busy roads in order to get between one stretch of track and another. There is felt to be a strong case for linking up some of these existing tracks and bridleways with new stretches of off‐road track to create a more connected network of multi‐user tracks.
13.1.9 Across Gloucestershire, people highlight latent or under utilised access opportunities within or connected to their communities, by bridleways or footpaths that could be upgraded, or through disused linear transport infrastructure such as canal and rail corridors or other potential access arrangements. Subject to issues of feasibility and delivery, funding will need to be identified.
13.1.10 As a first principle it can be useful to agree what opportunities for walking, cycling and horse riding should be identified and secured through the production of local and neighbourhood development plans. When the local community, stakeholders and the local authority have agreed this in principle, and the relevant plans are adopted this will enable GCC to support the process of seeking funding opportunities.
LTP PD4.11 Health and wellbeing
GCC will support the Rights of Way and Countryside Access Improvement Plan in identifying and seeking to support measures to improve safety,accessibility and the quality of the experience for walkers, horse riders, carriage drivers and cyclists where there is an identified need.
GCC will do this by implementing the following policy proposals:
- To integrate pedestrian, cycle and horse riding routes with the road network to promote a cohesive path network and, where a route has to cross a busy road, provide a safe crossing point
- To maintain verges for horse riders and walkers, especially where this provides links between sections of the public rights of way network
- To consider the traffic implications on any existing pedestrian, cycle or horse riding paths or road crossing points where new development isplanned
- To encourage people away from busy routes, where traffic flows or speeds cannot reasonably be reduced, by agreeing measures to safeguard quieter routes and improve accessibility to and within green space and rural settlements
- To encourage the use of the rights‐of‐way network for utility journeys, particularly in the urban fringe and between some villages.
- To support the exploration and development of the wider network of route opportunities which may successfully dovetail with the rights of way network to provide a coherent safe network.