Following the public inquiry on 24 May 2012, the current application has been withdrawn by West Berks Council after strong opposition from the BHS and local riders. The public inquiry was adjourned by the Inspector after 2 hours because the Council presented an alternative application on the day which the public had not had time to comment on.
If successful, the proposals would have removed an area of safe off-road riding by fencing riders out a significant part of the southern half of the common and by restricting access to the northern half by providing limited access points and erecting self-closing gates when riders have had free access to the common for as long as anyone can remember. The proposals also conflicted with objectives in the Council’s Rights of Way Improvement Plan.
Along with 200 other commons, Padworth Common is regulated by a Scheme of Management made under the 1899 Commons Act. Horse riders have lawful access to these commons but West Berks Council claimed that a byelaw preventing the exercising of horses also prevented recreational riding. Research by the BHS, including obtaining Counsel’s opinion, disputes this.
The future intention of West Berks Council with respect to recreational riding on Padworth Common is still unclear but the BHS will strongly contest any attempts to restrict it. Riders elsewhere need to be vigilant because applications to fence commons are increasing. Useful information on commons can be found on the BHS website but riders are advised to contact BHS headquarters or their local access officer if an application to fence and gate a common has been made.