A clear path to protection for Hampshire’s rights of way

Hampshire’s rights of way should be kept for clear for all to use – that’s the message from Hampshire County Council, as it adopts a new policy to support keeping paths open and accessible

Jan 14 2021

Executive Member for Recreation, Heritage, Countryside and Rural Affairs, Councillor Edward Heron, approved the new Public Rights of Way Enforcement Policy at his decision day on 12 January. He said: 

“Here in Hampshire, we are lucky to have so many footpaths, bridleways, and other routes that we can all use, to exercise, enjoy the countryside, or to walk safely to our schools and workplaces. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I think even more people have come to realise just how important these paths and byways are to our health and wellbeing.

“The County Council has a statutory duty to protect these routes, and I am pleased to say that many people support us in this work, by reporting any problems they find on the paths, so that we can look into them. Sadly, more than a third of the reports we’ve received this year describe obstructions on the path, such as fences, or use of the path for farming crops. We also hear reports of other activities that may spoil the paths and deter people from using them, such as illegal vehicle use. 

“We’ve set out our policy in a public document to help everyone understand their responsibilities; making the situation more transparent for people using the paths, and for the landowners who may border a right of way, or may be responsible for keeping them open across their land.”

Hampshire County Council looks after 4,600km of footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way. It records all reports of problems on Hampshire’s rights of way, and in the last three years has seen an increase in problems caused by obstructions, such as fencing, or nuisances, such as illegal vehicles or intimidation. Wherever possible, officers attempt to resolve the issue by liaising with those involved, and providing guidance; however, in the last three years officers have had to serve notices to resolve obstructions and nuisances. On occasion, this has resulted in court action.

The adoption of an Enforcement Policy is designed to support the County Council in taking the appropriate course of action and to make the process publicly available for reference by residents and landowners.

The policy will be available at www.hants.gov.uk/landplanningandenvironment/rightsofway and can be read in full in the decision reports pack

You can report a problem on a right of way at www.hants.gov.uk/landplanningandenvironment/rightsofway