Risden Woods horse riders take their campaign to Harlow Council
General / Sun 16th Jul 2023 at 09:50am
HORSE riders who are campaigning for the right to ride their horses in Risden Woods on the edge of Harlow Council have taken their campaign to Harlow Council.
Dressed in their riding gear it was clear that they are not going to take neigh for an answer and are determined to jump all the hurdles put in their way regardless of any handicaps.
Campaign leader Ed Wilson asked a number of questions to the ruling Conservative cabinet. Harlow Labour councillor, Tony Durcan also asked a question.
Film of the questions are below.
Edmund Wilson to Councillor Nicky Purse (Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and Environment):
With Harlow Woods now closed to horse riders and other member of the public unable to traverse the newly installed barriers. Can Harlow Council please publish the advice received from Natural England that leave the council in a position where they are unable to lift restrictions? This is in stark contrast to communications received direct from Natural England the very same week.
Where Natural England would welcome discussions with the council regarding horse riding in Harlow Woods and encourage our continued dialog with the council. Sadly, we have been unable to continue any dialogue despite emails and recorded delivery mail.
I would also ask how this stance fits the “Harlow health and wellbeing strategy 2023 to 2028” which contains many opposing statements to the current actions of the council. I believe the publication of these communications would be in the interest of the published code of conduct specifically (Appendix 1) The Nolan Principles and Section 28(1) of the Localism Act 2011. Sections: 2) Integrity, 3) Objectivity, 4) Accountability and 5) Openness.
Reply from Councillor Nicky Purse (Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and Environment):
Firstly, I would like to correct the statement that has been made in the question – Harlow Woods is not “now closed to horse riders” – the woodland has carried a restriction preventing unauthorised motorcycling and horse riding for many years.
You will also be very aware that currently there are no designated bridleways within the woodland area known as Harlow Woods which has been identified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so there is no permitted formal access for horse riders within the woodland.
Harlow Council has worked very closely with the Forestry Commission and Natural England to agree a management plan for the woodland which is recognised as currently being in unfavourable condition with a recovering status due to the current programme of conservation management in place. This effort will need to be sustained with adequate safeguards to achieve favourable condition status for the SSSI feature, which aligns with national government Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) targets. Conserving the biodiversity value of this nationally designated site should be a key focus for the Council within its environmental sustainability plan
Natural England has clearly stated to the Council that it is unclear how access for horse riding could be achieved by Harlow District Council and is beyond the
scope of the current management plan that has been agreed for the management and recovery of the SSSI.
The Landscapes and Biodiversity Team fully endorse the “Harlow health and wellbeing strategy 2023 to 2028”. However, this cannot be to the detriment of the sustained efforts in achieving favourable condition for Harlow Council’s only SSSI feature.
We are also arranging a further meeting with you and specialists from Natural England to bring resolution to this matter.
Councillor Tony Durcan to Councillor Nicky Purse (Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability):
Over the weekend I have been approached over concerns raised about vandalism of council property at Risden Woods.
An open letter has appeared in your Harlow that could appear to lay the blame over the damage being carried out by someone from the horse riding stable. This is purely based on the evidence of horse droppings. As you can imagine this has caused huge offence.
Could you please provide an update on what actions are being taken to mitigate possible further escalation of this situation, including:
Reply from Councillor Nicky Purse (Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainability):
Thank you for your question regarding the repeated damage being caused at Risden Woods.
In respond to the four parts of our question:
a) £0. The restrictions were installed using materials already to hand and using volunteers to install them and supervised by a Council Officer.
c) Unauthorised horse riding and motorcycle riding in the woods has been prohibited for a significant number of years as notified on signage at 2 of the entrances to the woods. The barriers were installed because of unauthorised use of the woods continued in spite of the restrictions which have been in place for many years as advertised by the signage.
d) The Equality Act requires Councils to make reasonable adjustments to be able to offer access to their facilities to all. What is classed as a reasonable adjustment relies on a number of factors which include, amongst other things, how practicable the changes are, how much money and resources are available and the cost of making the changes. Due to the SSSI status of Hospital & Risden Woods, it is not possible to alter the terrain and surfacing to enable accessibility, due to the steep gradients and uneven surfaces. Constraints associated with SSSI sites limit the balancing of access with the conservation of our natural heritage.
Parndon Wood Nature Reserve which is adjacent to the Hospital and Risden Woods SSSI offers accessibility for all users with access to several key features which include a bird hide, conservation centre, outdoor seating area, café, toilets and along some areas of permissive footpath. There is also an accessible car park located near to the entrance.
I was pleased that there is a clear commitment to maintain constructive and hopeful meaning discussion with the horse riding group. The test will be if the barricades are restored during this time. The horse riders have used this area for decades without any issues. Common sense must prevail and the Tory cabinet member needs to restore community cohesion and quickly.
These determined people will continue to fight for what is right, in these circumstances common sense and decency must prevail as nobody must be forced to ride a horse on the very busy road they are being told to use. It is both an enormous danger to the riders, who are mostly children and of course to the traffic, most of whom have absolutely no idea how to behave when passing horses. The council needs to consider how they will feel & public anger towards them when, not if, a terrible accident occurs. Only last week there was a crash very near to the stables, one of many on that road in the recent weeks. They will be held responsible!
The woods are not closed to people on motor bikes lol actually iv witnessed people on motor bikes entering the woods and back fields via the entrance to the cemetery virtually every day . But since nothings done about that maybe the horse riders can use the same route lol
Just seen the news article on Anglia news,I would like to raise the issue of why you have felled trees to block paths in the woods when you say you want to preserve the site as a SSSI rather goes against the ethos of protecting the site I would have thought
One of our points exactly Howard Bishop, although nothing makes sense in this situation - cutting down live trees to force young horse riders onto a main road??
Horse and riders should not have the right to shite on public rd, cycle tracks and pavement.end of!
Bruce Downey, most of the riders I know prefer to use the toilet but each to their own eh. I guess that means you are supporting our argument to ride off road then? Don't forget to sign the petition www.change.org/saveharlowhacking
Bruce Downey, there horses, what do you expect... take a good look round all the rubbish round and broken glass round Harlow.... get out more...
Pressue treated half round stakes and posts sourced from the woods without being purchased or transported to site. Councilor officers time and this all comes in at 0 cost. How are the horse riders going to take any response from the council serously with nonsense and infactual answers like that.
Was it 'horse riders' dumping two bags of waste and other items along cyclepath opposite Lamp Post number 7120?
Horse riders, cyclists, ramblers, dog walkers, Motocross, e scooters ravers..and any hobbyists I've missed .. surely this town should support them all ...the only caveate being that people act responsibly to the minimum detriment of others. It is community owned land after all.
All the wrong doings and goings on in harlow and all by humans and yet the council are stopping beautiful innocent horses from going through these woods. This is an absolute disgrace and i just dont know what the council are thinking,well obviously they are not thinking,when they say that the horses can go into the roads. How dangerous. Its us humans that are the problem everywhere. Horses going through the woods is just ao natural,leave them alone.
This council needs to get a serious grip . I accept horses sometimes do have to be ridden on roads but think the more they can be off roads the better and safer for them , their riders and traffic . This is absolute insanity . Councils are paid for from public funds ( council taxes ) and should be using financial resources and time on far more pressing matters than this . Let the horses back in the woods . This is total nuts !