Family business in row with Island Roads could ‘lose everything’

A family run business could lose everything if a road is resurfaced with a certain material. 

Jayne and Wilbur Brown run Hill Farm Stables in Freshwater with their daughters Jess, Emma and Annabel.

They’ve been living and working in from their home for over 50 years, providing a riding school & pony club centre for tourists and Islanders alike.

Now, the family say a planned road resurfacing by Island Roads on the Causeway in Freshwater starting at the Red Lion pub could jeopardise everything.

Fibrovia is the material that Island Roads are to use on the road, the family say this material is slippery for horses and would mean their business would have to cease trading.

Jess Brown outside the stables with one of their many horses – J.Sheath

The Browns would prefer Island Roads use another material, ULM, to upgrade the road surface that they admit is in a bad state of repair.

They say they’ve even offered to pay the difference as they understand ULM is more expensive to work with than Fibrovia.

Work on the road is due to start soon and the family fear time is running out for their business.

The Browns say Island Roads advised them to instruct riders to come down from their horses and walk them over the planned Fibrovia surface – a practise Mrs Brown says is simply too dangerous for beginner and disabled riders.

Another suggestion to fit the horses with road studs has also been made, but the Browns say this is not “cost effective”.

Mrs Brown said: “If they put down a surface that we are unable to ride on or won’t bed in for at least nine months we are not going to be able to use it. That is our beginner route, that’s our safe route for children and disabled riders.

“We are likely to have to close down if we can’t do our beginner route. We can’t take them anywhere else for an hour. People like the route because people get to see them on a horse, they get to meet their mum and dad at the Red Lion which is the halfway point – it’s just a nice route for beginners. It’s the one we have used for 55 years and without it we’ll be in big trouble. We wont be able to pay our mortgage because we get more beginners than anything else – so it’s a big, big problem for us.

“With 45 horses to feed and look after, I can’t just put stud holes in their shoes for road studs. To take off 40 sets of shoes and replace 40 sets of shoes with stud holes and then buy 40 sets of studs – it’s not cost effective. It would be about £4500.

“All I’m asking is for them to put a safe surface on the top of the road.”

Hill Farm Stables – by J.Sheath

A spokesman for Island Roads said: “We have been pleased to liaise with the Island’s equine community in recent years to discuss our resurfacing programme and how it affects riders.

“All surfacing materials used by Island Roads meet or exceed UK safety and quality standards and have been used across the world and the UK for over 20 years. To the layman and indeed to the horse-rider there is little, if any, difference between the main products we have used for resurfacing (Fibrovia and ULM) in terms of slip resistance.

“The type of material we will use at the Causeway has been used extensively – on almost 100 kilometres of the network – across the Island on rural roads of this nature. We have no record of an offer by Hill Farm Stables to contribute to the cost of laying ULM as opposed to Fibrovia but in any case, the decision to use Fibrovia has been taken for engineering not financial reasons as it is simply the best material for this location.

“The British Horse Society states horse owners using the highway must exercise their duty of care as a road user together with their duty as horse owner. We would request the riders exercise their duty of care as a road user and horse owner and take note of guidance provided by The British Horse Society when using the public highway.”

Director of safety for the British Horse Society, Alan Hiscox said: “Riders should be aware at all times on how the surface they are riding on affects the horses grip. The British Horse Society is however, very concerned that horse riders on the Isle of Wight are continuing to experience challenges with the road surface in certain areas on the Island.”

Again, thank you for including the British Horse Society within the article and I hope you don’t mind us requesting the change in quote.

IW Observer is in no way claiming ULM or Fibrovia are in any way unsafe.