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Brexit and our land: Securing the future of Welsh farming

26 Oct 2018

The Response of The British Horse Society

Download our shorter proforma response.

The Society supports the proposal for a new Land Management Programme to replace CAP in its entirety, and welcomes the Public Goods scheme to deliver more public goods from the land. The Society supports the five principles for reform. The Land Management Programme should recognise the importance of the Horse Industry, and the reliance that it, and agriculture, have on each other.

The Society supports the case for bespoke support in Wales.

The Society would be happy to input to the Cabinet Secretary’s Roundtable, and in particular the Land Management Sub-Group.

The National Equine Database statistics for 2012 state that there were 134,748 pass ported horses  in Wales. This represents a large land use in Wales which is closely aligned to agriculture in Wales, and provides a growing market for agricultural and forestry outputs.

Based on the British Equestrian Trade Association’s finding that horse owners spend £3,600 annually on their horses, this represents an annual investment by horse owners into the Welsh economy of £485 million.

Horse ownership also provides and supports work for many in rural areas where local employment is much needed - such as farriers, vets, petrol stations, timber yards, feed merchants, farmers and the livery yards where many of these horses are kept.

Equestrians desperately need safe routes for the same reasons as walkers and cyclists; many roads are no longer safe for them to use due to the speed and volume of traffic on the roads. In the past six years the Society’s records show that there have been 2914 reports of road incidents involving horses, 39 Rider deaths, 230 Horse deaths, 840 Horses injured; 85% of these incidents were because vehicles passed too fast or too close to the horse.

Increasing off road access opportunities is vitally important to enable vulnerable road users to exercise off the road and thereby save lives.

These days, many equestrian rights of way can only be reached using busy roads. In Wales, riders currently have access to less than 22% of the public rights of way network.  In some areas, there are no bridleways at all. Many rights of way are now disconnected from each other because the roads that connect them are no longer safe for equestrians to use because of the speed and volume of motorised traffic on them. This leaves many equestrians without access to a safe local route to use.

We know this impacts on equestrian core market participation, with 44% of those riding once a week or less saying they would ride more frequently if they had access to safe off road riding or bridleways (BETA survey, 2015).  This is the most cited reason that would make people ride more frequently. 

91% of respondents to a recent survey of 750 horse riders said that spending time outdoors was very important, or important motivation for horse riding, therefore providing places for people to ride outdoors safely is vital to sustaining the core market. 

The improvement of existing routes and the creation of new safe off road routes clearly falls within the proposed Public Goods scheme, and would provide outdoor recreation opportunities and access to green spaces, and should form an integral part of the Public Goods scheme.

The British Horse Society believes that responsible access to the countryside is inherently beneficial to society, and that opportunities to improve and enhance access should be integral part of the Public Goods scheme. The benefits of countryside access, not only to physical health but also to mental health and wellbeing are well proven.

The British Horse Society commissioned the University of Brighton and Plumpton College to research the health benefits of recreational horse riding. A key finding of this research was that horse riding and activities associated with horse riding, such as mucking out, expend sufficient energy to be classed as moderate intensity exercise.[1]

The Society will only respond to the consultation questions that fall within its remit.

Consultation questions:

Q1. We propose a new Land Management Programme consisting of an Economic Resilience scheme and a Public Goods scheme. Do you agree these schemes are the best way to deliver against the principles? If not, what alternatives would be best?

Answer: Yes

Q3. From your experience of current programmes, what do you feel would work well for the future?

Answer: The provision of access routes to enable people to partake in healthy outdoor recreation, especially bridleways and restricted byways that provide such opportunities for horse riders, carriage drivers, cyclists, and walkers.

Q5. Are the five proposed areas of support the right ones to improve economic resilience? Are there any areas which should be included but currently are not?

Answer: Yes. The horse industry is a proven example of effective diversification for land managers and this is particularly relevant in Wales with its large coverage of pasture land.

Q8.We have set out our proposed parameters for the public goods scheme. Are they appropriate? Would you change anything? If so, what?

Answer: Yes, they are appropriate. The provision of new and improved access should be clearly specified as being within the scope of heritage and recreation of Parameter 1. Parameter 5 should require cross compliance to be a condition of any grant. This would be a considerable incentive to land managers to become pro-active in keeping rights of way open at a time when local authority resources for public rights of way are under serious pressure.

Q9. This scheme is meant to offer land managers the opportunity to access a significant new income stream as the BPS comes to an end. How could we improve what is being proposed to attract land managers whilst still achieving our vision and objectives?

Answer: Making the income streams transparent and easy to opt in for. Offer land managers an annual payment to help better maintain existing rights of way and access across their land by

  • Financially incentivising land managers to increase public access, particularly through improvements in the rights of way network
  • Reimbursing land managers for capital works that are required to create new routes across their land

It is particularly important that funding is available:

  • to fill in missing links in the existing equestrian rights of way network; such as where two sections of bridleway or byway are disconnected, or are connected only by a length of footpath, or where a bridge is missing. This would open up many more connected routes, enabling and encouraging people to explore more of the countryside than is currently possible.
  • to allow users to avoid dangerous roads; for example where a bridleway meets a busy road, forcing users onto that road for a distance before connecting with a different right of way. Providing safe alternative routes would reduce road casualties and make horse-riding, cycling and walking more attractive to users.

Payments for enhancing existing access could include:

  • improvement in path widths,
  • leaving a bridleway/restricted byway across arable fields undisturbed and uncultivated, and regularly mowing and preventing encroachment by vegetation
  • regularly mowing a headland bridleway/restricted byway and preventing encroachment by vegetation,
  • mowing or marking a bridleway/restricted byway across grass leys, moorland
  • mowing, regrading and rolling green lanes,
  • improving the accessibility of gates so that they comply with the Equality Act, and are easily accessible by equestrians, and those with disabilities.
  • additional or improved way marking and signposting,
  • the provision of parking spaces for horse trailers so that riders who cannot access public rights of way from where they keep their horse can park and access the countryside easily.
  • the provision of higher rights (the difference in subsidy for provision between footpaths and bridleways or restricted byways should be substantial to encourage upgrades where it is appropriate and safe for all users).

Q10.  Are there any other public goods which you think should be supported? If so, why?

Answer: No

Q11. A number of public goods could potentially take several years, sometimes decades, to be fully realised. e.g. carbon sequestration through broad leaf trees. To deliver on these, land managers may need to enter into a long term contract. How do you see such agreements working? What do you see as the benefits or disadvantages to such agreements?

Answer: The benefit of providing for a long term contract for the maintenance of access benefits as set out in the answer to Question 9 above will mean certainty for the user that the route will be maintained and encourage greater participation and use by the public, leading to a healthier and more active nation, and a greater appreciation of farming and the countryside.

Q12. A collaborative approach to delivering public goods may in some instances provide better value for money than isolated activity. How could the scheme facilitate this approach? How could public and private bodies contribute to such partnerships?

Answer: The British Horse Society would be happy to collaborate in the delivery of schemes to increase access for equestrians.

Q13. Some actions can deliver multiple public goods in the same location. For example, peat bog restoration can have benefits for carbon sequestration and flood risk reduction. However, some locations could be suitable for multiple public goods from different activities. For example, one location may be suitable to either plant trees for carbon sequestration, or to revert to wetland for biodiversity. How could locations for single, multiple or competing benefits be prioritised?

Answer: It is hoped that most schemes will be able to incorporate enhanced access for the public.

Q14. Given that support for the delivery of public goods will be a new approach in Wales, there will be a requirement for a significant amount of training and advice for the sector. How best could this training and advice be delivered? Which areas of the sector need the most attention?

Answer: The British Horse Society would be happy to provide training and advice in respect of equestrian rights of way and the particular specifications thereto.

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