WORRIED horse riders have raised concerns over the condition of ageing bridleways in Benfleet.

Residents say numerous bridleways have been in constant use for more than 40 years, but due to lack of maintenance have fallen into disrepair, creating dangers for riders and horses.

Julia Burch, 46, of Badgers Way, said the paths need to be resurfaced as they easily flood and trees surrounding the bridleways need cutting back, so riders can see where they are going.

Ms Burch said: “Benfleet has a huge horseriding community and these bridleways are constantly used. They haven’t been touched in years. No one is resurfacing them and it’s making them impossible to use.

“Work needs to be done to fix them. They aren’t only used by horses and riders, but cyclists and walkers – making it dangerous for everybody.

“It is like an accident waiting to happen. They are that bad.”

Damien Stone, general manager at Braeside Equestrian Centre, in Great Burches Road, said: “The bridleways are neglected; the surface floods, but goes rock hard in the sun. It is dangerous for horses and people.”

Riders are also worried about the future of some bridlepaths as they surround areas earmarked for development under the local plan.

Lynne Marriott, 46, of Almar Close, said: “The bridleways need to be sorted out. They need to be discussed as part of the local plan. Castle Point Council needs to pay more attention to the equestrian community. The council is very aware of these problems, but it seems as if it is choosing to ignore it.”

Norman Smith, Conservative councillor for Boyce ward, said he was willing to meet residents bver bridleways.

He said: “In terms of future bridleways, they will be considered in the consultation process of the draft local plan. I ammore than happy to meet residents to discuss plans and existing bridleways.”

An Essex Highways spokesman added: “These are unmade roads and being bridleways would not receive the same standard of maintenance as the highway network routes where our main aim is to ensure the safe movement of people and goods; this would not apply to an unmade road.

“Nevertheless, the concerns of residents are appreciated and we will arrange for an inspector to visit carry out an assessment.”