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The BHS condemns Government’s decision to backtrack on 2026 deadline

The British Horse Society (BHS) is extremely disappointed to learn that the UK Government has broken its commitment to abolishing the 2026 deadline for saving vital off-road routes. This decision will mean such routes across England will be lost forever, resulting in less opportunities to access the countryside.

For horse riders, who currently have access to just 22% of the rights of way network, this decision will be particularly damaging. In 2022 alone, 69 horses were killed on Britain’s roads and 139 riders injured, therefore the protection of safe off-road routes is critical to make sure equestrians remain safe.

Mark Weston, Director of Access at The British Horse Society says: “Recent years have illustrated just how vital more off-road access is for the safety, health and wellbeing of horse riders, as well as walkers and cyclists. These bridleways and byways should be protected for future generations to enjoy and treasure. Unfortunately, this U-turn from the government could cause the opposite effect and will put access to more safe riding routes at great risk.

Through our Project 2026 campaign, we have worked closely with our volunteers, members and supporters to save 2,800 bridleways and byways. Without their crucial work, these historic rights of way could have been wiped off the Definitive Map. But there’s plenty more routes that are still in danger. 

We will continue to work with our brilliant network of over 400 access volunteers to research and record these routes. However, it must be recognised that there is already a backlog of applications waiting to be processed and the necessary steps need to be put in place quickly to make it possible for paths to be researched, applied for, and processed within this tight deadline. The outcome of this announcement means that many of our favourite off-road routes will be gone forever.”

Find out more information about the BHS 2026 campaign here.

Notes to editors

Join our network of volunteers working to protect bridleways across the nations.

Report a road incident involving horses via our website or download our new reporting app, Horse i.

 Contact: The British Horse Society Press Office


T: 02476 840521

The British Horse Society:

As the largest equine charity in the UK, The British Horse Society is dedicated to education, equine welfare, protecting and increasing access to bridleways and places to ride and carriage drive off road, and safety for horse and riders. The Society’s thriving and active community of staff and volunteers is committed to improving the lives of horses everywhere.