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Access and Rights over Land

Public Rights of Way

Public rights of way are not always in a convenient location for the landowner/occupier due to historical mapping and features. Sworders has experience in assisting landowners with diverting, extinguishing and downgrading existing public rights of way as well as completing the required statements to ensure that new public rights of way are not created over your land.

Public Rights of Way Consist of:

  • Footpath – can be used on foot only but can be accompanied by dogs, wheelchairs and pushchairs but NOT horses or bicycles.
  • Bridleway – can be used on foot, horseback and bicycle. Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders.
  • Restricted Byway – can be used on foot, horseback, bicycle and horse & carriage but NOT a motorised vehicle.
  • Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) – can be used on foot, horseback, bicycle, horse & carriage and motorised vehicles.
  • Permissive Paths – used by the permission of the landowner but they have no legal status and the landowner can withdraw permission at any time.

All public rights of way (except permissive paths) are shown on the Definitive Map and the Definitive Statement provides a written description of the route.

Public Rights of Way Can Be Stopped Up/Diverted Via Two Processes:

  • Under section 257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 – where an application for development has been granted planning consent and the development will require a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway to be extinguished/diverted to allow the development. The Local Planning Authority will decide whether the stopping up/diversion is acceptable.
  • Under the Highways Act 1980 – this Act enables the landowner/occupier to apply to the County Council to extinguish or divert a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway where it can be shown that there is a benefit to the landowner/occupier and will not detrimentally affect the public use of the route.

A landowner can complete and submit a statement and plan to the County Council under section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 which declares the existing public rights of way over their land. This acts as a way of stopping the clock on the ability of the public to declare a public right of way over the land which has been used for a period of time by deemed dedication; uninterrupted use by the public without force, secrecy or permission for a period of at least 20 years must be shown to create a new footpath or bridleway by deemed dedication under section 53 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

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