Who’s responsible when it comes to public rights of way and access land?

Who’s responsible when it comes to public rights of way and access land?

A guide for Parish and Town councils

Historically parish and town councils (‘local councils’) have played a key role in maintaining and recording the rights of way network (find out more in the guide - Legal records of access). During the twentieth century most of these local council duties became the responsibility of county councils, but the highways history has left local councils with numerous powers. Use of these may be discretionary but, if they wish, local councils can still play a key role in maintaining their local rights of way.

The County Council views local councils’ main responsibilities as being:

  • To ensure that the views of local people are represented on matters such as Public Path Orders (diversions and extinguishments);
  • To protect the network for the benefit of local people;
  • To seek opportunities to improve paths and the network to fit the needs of the local area.

Duties and powers

When thinking about the rights and responsibilities of those involved with public rights of way, we refer to two terms - duties and powers.

Duties’ – actions that a body has a legal obligation to carry out; there is no element of discretion, the law says that they must be done, otherwise a body or individual can be called to account.
Powers’ – actions that a body can choose to do; it is up to the individual organisation to decide whether a particular action is necessary or desirable and whether it is justified and achievable. Unlike Duties these entitlements are discretionary.  

2. Who

3. Details