The British Horse Society (BHS) has said it 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 even more restrictions when it comes to accessing the countryside.

For riders, who currently have access to just 22% of the rights of way network, this decision will be particularly damaging, they said. In 2022 alone, 69 horses were killed on Britain’s roads and 139 riders injured.

“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,” said Mark Weston, Director of Access at The British Horse Society. “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 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.”

For more information about the BHS 2026 campaign, visit

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