Campaigner spots an embarrassing error with a hastily-created bridleway put together by housing developers in Harborough
A national countryside campaigner has slammed a new bridleway opened on a Market Harborough building site – because it’s not wide enough for horses.
Kate Ashbrook has hit out days after the farcical emergency route was thrown open on the sprawling Farndon Fields estate to the south west of Harborough.
The tight fenced-off path has been carved out by Avant Homes after the established bridleway, known as A105, was shut by the housebuilder in November 2018.
But bizarrely the hastily-created right of way is not big enough for horsemen and women.
It does not look safe even for cyclists – and can only be used by walkers and runners.
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Kate, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, told the Harborough Mail: “This is absolute rubbish.
“How can it be a proper bridleway if it’s not adequate enough to be used by horse-riders?
“It’s just outrageous.”
She said the people of Harborough and surrounding villages have been severely “let down” by both Avant Homes and Leicestershire County Council.
“It’s the council’s job to protect, defend and look after bridleways and ancient rights of way, for heaven’s sake,” snapped Kate.
“What is the point of a bridleway if it’s not wide enough for horses?
“It’s like a public footpath not being wide enough for pedestrians!
“The people of Market Harborough are being taken for fools.
“Ramblers, runners, cyclists and horse-riders have been denied their historic route since their beloved bridleway was shut almost 18 months ago.
“This is totally inexcusable.
“The council has got to get its finger out and make sure people get a proper bridleway there urgently.”
The new route, opened on Friday February 7, is “only safe to be used by pedestrians”, a county council source has told the Mail.
“It’s not wide enough to be used by horses as part of it runs alongside an active haul road,” they admitted.
“There is not sufficient room to safely provide a route between the edge of the road and the farmer’s field to allow for a bridleway width of three metres.”
Cllr Phil King, leader of Harborough District Council, said: “This is very disappointing.
“Bridleways are clearly meant for horses.
“Horses aren’t small so they obviously need enough room to be able to walk safely.
“This is a critical issue and we expect it to be sorted out as soon as possible.”
Cllr King said the county council had to grasp the nettle.
“Bridleways are their responsibility and they’ve got the legal clout to act.
“I’d expect them to be taking this very seriously – they have to encourage the builder to resolve this quickly,” he insisted.
A county council spokeswoman said: “We are aware that there may still be concerns about access issues at the bridleway.
“Our main aim was to ensure the developers supplied a through route to end uncertainty for people who use the bridleway.”
She said: “We're now working with the developers to ensure the re-opening of a permanent bridleway with a new surface and access for all users.”
An Avant Homes spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that the temporary bridleway route opened to the public on Friday February 7.”
She warned it could take until the end of 2020 to re-open a new long-term right of way on Farndon Fields.
“Works will continue to open a further section of the closed bridleway in the spring and a permanent route will be fully open by the end of the year,” she said.
The Open Spaces Society is the UK’s oldest national conservation campaign group after being set up in 1865.