An upmarket seaside town has banned horse riders from the beach because councillors say the seafront will be too busy with staycationers this summer.
For years horses have been ridden along the smooth sands at the smart resort of Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, but the animals have now been banned on the grounds of safety.
Thousands of horse riders who frequent the horse-friendly sands have signed a petition urging the council to reconsider the ban on the historic activity and suggesting a permit system is put in place instead – as it is for watersports.
Councillor Terry Allen, who supports the clampdown, said the seafront had become the ‘wild west’ in previous years and that having tens of horses on the beach this summer was a ‘recipe for disaster’.
For years horses have been ridden along the smooth sands at the smart resort of Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, but the animals have now been banned on the grounds of safety
Mr Allen said: ‘It was like the Charge of the Light Brigade last summer – horses all over the beach, jumping the breakwaters and putting lives at risk.
‘The seafront was lined with more than 20 giant horseboxes some days – people came from fifty miles away.
At times it was like the Wild West – there were as many as 30 horses galloping around on the beach. It was frightening and dangerous – one woman was hurt after a horse vaulted a groyne and the rider didn’t see her.’
Horse-riding community is furious about the controversial clampdown which they say treats them unfairly – but Frinton and Walton Town Council insists that it is too dangerous to allow riders on the two-mile beach because they expect Covid travel restrictions will lead to even more crowded beaches this summer.
Riders have cantered into a fierce row with a council after horses were banned from the beach in a smart seaside town. Pictures: Signs banning horses from the beach
The council says the ban has been introduced following issues caused by a ‘small minority of riders’ last year and has been taken after consulting with the town’s residents’ association, beach hut association and local councillors.
New signs are now being installed by the council announcing the ban which will run up to the end of September.
But the decision has caused uproar amongst the horse-riding community and a petition by Emma Overton, who has ridden at the beach for more than 30 years, has collected more than 4,500 signatures in less than a week.
Mrs Overton who often rides at the beach with her two daughters, describes the decision as ‘unfair’.
She said: ‘There is a lack of bridle paths around here for riders and they love going to the beach and being in the sea and it is brilliant exercises for horses.
A horse being exercised on the beach in the winter sunshine, Frinton-On-Sea, Essex
‘But this decision is wrong and has really rubbed the horse community up the wrong way. There are not many places to get this full beach experience. The sea water is so good for the horses and it’s a safe place. We want the council to rethink their decision and agree that we can all share the beach.
‘It’s really sad as horse riding along the beach is part of the town’s heritage and the Boxing Day hunt rides took place there for years.’
Mrs Overton said she hopes to negotiate with the council following the wave of support and the backing of one local Conservative councillor who represents the town and is calling on the council to explain why the community was not consulted before the decision was made – and for it to be reversed.
She added: ‘We know that some riders do not clear up horse muck and use the beach as a race track which could put other beach users at risk. But we have been asking for a permit system like those that cover water bike users and kite surfers.
‘It would dramatically reduce the number of riders coming here and hold those who disregard the rules accountable.’
But Mike Carran, Tendring Council’s assistant director for leisure, said Frinton’s beach was a beautiful place for all to enjoy and had to be used sensibly.
Wooden beach huts on the coastline heading towards Frinton, in Walton on the Naze, Essex
‘Unfortunately, a small minority of riders have caused issues in the past, by not respecting the presence of other beach goers or the designated access routes. This is disappointing because the vast majority of riders are responsible and seeing a horse ride along the edge of the surf is wondrous to behold. This action is being taken after consulting with the residents’ association, beach hut association and local ward councillors.
‘Access to beaches for horses is relatively rare in this country, meaning Frinton becomes a magnet for this activity and it is important that we safeguard this for the future.’
And council spokesman Will Lodge added: ‘We have introduced these measures to try and ensure the safety of everybody who uses the beach here at Frinton. The problem is that since the pandemic more and more people have been using the beaches because they can’t go elsewhere.
‘That is fantastic to see but with an increase in numbers comes the increased risk of incidents and conflicts between different users.’
Frinton is one of Britain’s last remaining traditional resorts – it has only been in recent years that the town has had its first pub and fish and chip shop. Locals proudly boasted that the town was separated from the rest of Essex by a set of railway gates across the only way in and out.
It is governed by strict rules dubbed Frinton’s ‘Ten Commandments’ that include a ban on topless bathing, ice cream sellers on the beach and ball games on the prom.
There are no amusement arcades and beach huts change hands for around £70,000.