Rights of way have long been an area of dispute, with landowners seeking to protect their land, and ramblers constantly looking for new lands to explore. Farmers and landowners are susceptible to increasing use of their land for public recreation without knowing what their rights actually are.
In order to determine whether a right of way exists over your land, you must consult the definitive map for your area. This is a map for your area prepared by and available from your local authority that shows a record of the public’s rights of way.
If a right of way is not on the definitive map, the starting point is that no right of way exists and a person using the right of way could be trespassing.
There are a number of ways by which the definitive map can be changed in order to divert a right of way, stop its use or even create a new right of way. These are as follows:
Presumed dedication under the Highways Act 1980; this applies when there has been uninterrupted use as of right by the public over a period of 20 years;
A Public Path Order under the Highways Act 1980; this order can move a path, close a path, or create a new path by entering into a creation agreement with the land owner whose land is affected;
An application under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990; a landowner may apply to divert or extinguish a public right of way if they have planning permission to develop the land over which the right of way runs; and
A Definitive Map Modification Order made under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; a person may apply for a right of way to be registered and included on the definitive map. If applied for, the local council can make a Modification Order. This can be objected to and will be decided by the Planning Inspectorate if objections exist. If such an application is made in relation to your land, you must object or the right of way is likely to be registered.
If you are aware of the above, you will be in a good position to know your rights and potentially to protect your land from trespassers.
If you'd like any further information about rights of way, do contact me.
This blog article first appeared in British Farmer and Grower magazine.