Landowners guide to public rights of way
- Your responsibilities
If you own or occupy land crossed by a public right of way, it is your responsibility to keep the route clear and safe for users.
Keep paths clear
The public must have access over the whole path. Obstructions (such as fences, locked gates or parked machinery) are a public nuisance and a statutory offence.
Keep paths safe
Paths must be free from hazards and any that are near to a public right of way should be clearly signed.
Barbed wire should not be fixed to fencing facing a right of way. Barbed wire running through a stile must be covered or have had its barbs removed.
Electric fencing must be insulated or covered where it passes through a stile or gate and must be clearly signed to warn users.
Maintain trees and hedges
Vegetation growing in from the side or overhanging a path must be cut back so the path is clear. Bridleways must have a height clearance of at least of 3.75m for horse riders. It is the responsibility of the landowner to clear trees or branches that have fallen on or across a right of way.
Do not intimidate or misinform users
Ensure that animals do not intimidate users or obstruct the right of way. It is an offence to put signs or notices on public rights of way that misinform or discourage public use.
Maintain gates and stiles
Landowners must keep stiles or gates in good condition.
- New gates and stiles
It is a criminal offence to install stiles or gates without our permission. We no longer authorise new stiles as they make paths hard to use for those who have mobility difficulties, pushchairs or wheelchairs. New gates will only be authorised to prevent livestock straying.
Whenever possible existing stiles should be replaced with a gap or gate. We are willing to contribute towards the cost of a gate where it replaces an existing stile.
- Carrying out works on public rights of way
You have the right to improve the surface of a path (for example if a footpath also serves as a driveway), however you must first get our consent.
If you are doing work that will improve a right of way for users it may be possible to get a grant from our Small Grants Scheme to contribute towards the cost.
Rights of way must not be closed or restricted without our consent. If you are intending to undertake any activity that might affect a public right of way please contact us first.
- Changes to public rights of way and access
If someone has made an application to add a public right of way on your land you will receive a 'Notice to Landowner(s) and Occupier(s)’. We can explain the process if you receive such a notice. We will ask you to provide evidence to assist the investigation process.
Contact us if you would like to discuss changes to public rights of way on your land.
- Protecting your land
Anyone can apply to add a public right of way to the definitive map or to register land as a town or village green. You can protect your land against these applications by depositing documents with the County Council.
Complete a CA16 form to make a deposit a statement and plan or declaration under the Highways Act 1980 and a landowner statement under the Commons Act 2006.
Rights of way
Deposit a statement and plan, under section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980, to protect your land from applications based on evidence of public use (note that this does not offer protection from a claim based on historic documentary evidence).
This process allows you to acknowledge existing public rights of way. A declaration can then be lodged to confirm no additional ways have been dedicated over the land. Any public use of the land during this period will not count towards the establishment of a new public right of way.
Town or village green
Deposit a landowner statement under section 15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006. This will protect you from a claim based upon a full period of twenty years’ recreational use.
You can also help make your intentions clear to the public by displaying notices, fencing land or locking gates.
- Giving permission to use a path
Landowners can give the public permission to use a path on their land, without it becoming a public right of way. These paths improve access by filling gaps in the network between existing public rights of way.
- Public rights of way on your land
If you are unsure as to whether you have public rights of way over your land you can check the legal record - the ‘definitive map’.