Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Stage

Comment ID 928193//1
Document Section 1. North Somerset Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Document Transport Q39. Are there any other transport issues or challenges that have been missed? How can they be addressed in the Local Plan? [View all comments on this section]
Respondent British Horse Society [View all comments by this respondent]
Response Date 11 Jan 2019

The BHS understands the need to find more places to build, according to Government instructions, but at the same time would wish to reduce the impact of these new houses on the countryside and, where possible, improve the network of public rights of way. However, the increased vehicle traffic flowing on from the construction of these new homes, wherever they are built, will have a major impact on other, more vulnerable road users (walkers, cyclists, horse riders, the less able-bodied such as the elderly, disabled and those using mobility scooters etc.), whether they are using the roads for leisure or for commuting.  Lanes which would once have been quiet will now become much busier.  They will no longer be safe to walk, cycle or ride and this will have an impact on NSC's efforts elsewhere to encourage people into healthy, active lifestyles.

However, the BHS feels that by adopting the proposals it makes, NSC will be able to avoid this adverse impact, as well as achieving a much improved network of public rights of way for little or no additional expense to what it already planned, at the same time as helping with healthy lifestyles and tourism.  In the following submission, we have used NSC's own main headings.

  1. North Somerset Wide Issues

Throughout the area, there is a very fragmented network of public rights of way and, financially restricted as NSC is, the BHS is well aware that there is precious little money available to improve it. At the same time, NSC is charged with encouraging people to get more exercise.  As stated above, the increased traffic following on from the new construction means that walkers, cyclists, horse riders and vulnerable road users – all indulging in healthy exercise – will be more and more at the mercy of traffic and this may result in many people no longer having the nerve to use what would once have been quiet roads for this purpose.  It is important that NSC takes into consideration that horse riders in particular make a significant contribution to the economy of North Somerset and keep hundreds of people employed in the more rural areas (vet, farrier, feed merchant, tack shops, livery yards, riding stables etc. etc).  In addition, post Brexit, farm subsidy payments seem likely to be based around 'public good', so it makes sense to be sure that vulnerable road users are not deterred, even from using the existing network of rights of way, by the increased traffic.

To promote healthy lifestyles and improve local access and rights of way, and comply with the Equality Act 2010, the BHS recommends that NSC makes provision of multi-user access a requirement in all new land development. Specifically, existing footpaths or other rights of way should be augmented to multi-user routes wherever practical.  We define multi-user routes as follows:

'A multi-user public right of way is one which permits the following groups of vulnerable non-motorised users to use it: walkers, cyclists and horse riders; the exception to non-motorised users is for the use of electric wheelchairs and mobility vehicles to ensure to those with more limited mobility are also included.'

 Although the term 'multi-user path' has never been defined legally, there is a legal right of way which would encompass all of these vulerable user groups: bridleways.  The BHS suggests that when discussing any new multi-user paths proposed by the Council, or upgrades to existing rights of way,  the above definition should be utilised unless there is a compelling reason why it should not, or that the status of bridleway is applied to ensure that all user groups are covered under law.  This would both ensure that all vulnerable user groups are catered for and represents the best value for both the public and public money as it applies to the widest possible range of users.

The main thrust of the BHS argument is that ALL the new walking/cycle paths which are mentioned in the document should become multi-user paths as defined above. Making multi-user access a specific requirement for all new land development gives NSC a once in twenty years opportunity to upgrade and improve the public rights of way network AT LITTLE OR NO COST TO ITSELF. Multi-user paths represent the best use of public money as they are open to the widest range of users.  If time and effort is taken to make sure that these new multi-user paths, which will be sorely needed, are linked in to the existing network, then NSC stands to gain not just in terms of reduced traffic and improved safety, but also in making these new communities pleasant places to live.  At the same time, it will be able to promote more tourism and make significant improvements in getting people to adopt more healthy lifestyles.  The BHS  therefore asks that the planners and developers work closely with both the Council's own Rights of Way Department, the North Somerset Local Access Forum and the BHS to bring about what will be a huge benefit to the area.

To promote healthy lifestyles and improve local access and rights of way, the BHS recommends that NSC makes provision of multi-user access a requirement in all new land development.