The British Horse Society today (21 October 2004) welcomed the commitment given by the Government to address
the problems caused to horses and their riders by the use of stone mastic asphalt (SMA) as a road surface dressing.
Chief Executive Graham Cory said "A road dressed with stone mastic asphalt can prove treacherous to horses due to the poor
grip they are able to obtain on this slippery surface. The BHS, which is working to reduce the number of road accidents
involving horses, whatever their cause, has been pressing the Government and local highways for some time to address the safety
implications of the use of SMA. We were therefore delighted to receive an assurance from Defra Minister Alun Michael
that the Government recognises our concerns and agrees that action is required."
In a letter to the Society, Alun Michael
said: "I refer to your letter of 14 July about stone mastic asphalt and road safety. I promised that I would write to
the Department for Transport to raise this issue on your behalf.
The Department for Transport has replied putting forward
two possible solutions, firstly using grit at the time of application of the new road surface, and secondly the use of road
nails. I am still concerned about the solutions offered, as the first one seems only to be a short term remedy, and
the second according to expert advice is not suitable for any length of time, as it can risk a horse's long term soundness.
Department for Transport point out that highway authorities are under a duty to provide a verge where necessary, though again
there is a question over whether local highway authorities would always be able to provide a verge, or be prepared to accept
the extra cost.
I have replied to Tony McNulty [Roads Minister] raising my concerns and requesting that Defra be consulted
on the best practice guidelines being produced for using this type of road surface. I have pointed out that it is vital
that local highway authorities have a full picture of all user needs, and particularly vulnerable users such as horse riders,
when carrying out road surfacing work."