New public rights of way
If you own land you may know that new rights of way can be created if the public use routes over the land for a long time. If you are willing to allow walkers or riders onto your land, but you do not want to create any new rights of way, you may apply to deposit a map and statement under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 indicating what public rights of way exist, if any. This should be followed within 20 years with an application to deposit a declaration indicating that no additional public rights of way have been dedicated. This will then be taken into account if anyone claims a path as a public right of way. For further information, see: Landowner deposits.
Diversions and extinguishments
If you find that a right of way on your land is in an awkward position for you, for example because you cannot secure an important part of your property, it may be possible to divert the path, or more rarely to close it altogether. You should make sure you do this legally however. If you divert people onto a new path without a diversion order, you may finish up with two paths on your land instead of one. See Diversions and extinguishments.
Stiles and gates
In law, stiles and gates are obstructions to the public right of way. They are obviously needed to prevent livestock such as sheep and cattle from escaping onto roads or into crops or domestic property and causing accidents or damage. However, you need to apply to the Council for authorisation before you erect new gates on your land.
If you already have gates or stiles on your land, it is your responsibility to keep them in good repair so that people can use them safely and easily. However the Council will contribute part of the cost, as long as it is reasonable and we are satisfied with the work. Also, the volunteer team may sometimes be available to carry out repairs which will reduce the cost still further. If you are interested in this, please Contact Highways.
Private access rights and their maintenance
If the access to your property is a public right of way, the Council will probably have some responsibility for its repair, but we cannot keep a track maintained to a suitable condition for vehicles if the public is only entitled to use it on foot or with horses. (If Council vehicles use the track, for example to collect the rubbish, this is still private use to provide a service to your property.)
You and any neighbours who need to use the track will have to repair it for your vehicles but you will need to consider whether the works need planning permission and what sort of materials will be suitable. For example, horses can slip on tarmac surfaces and an injured rider might be able to sue a landowner who had caused an accident by their choice of materials. You might also run the risk of prosecution by making the public right of way unusable. You should therefore consult the Council before carrying out or commissioning any works on a public right of way.
We shall take into account a number of factors before approving your proposals, including:
- Right of way user needs (including equestrians and cyclists where appropriate)
- Existing surface material
- Length and width of route to be re-surfaced
- Rural context
- Other issues, such as existing or proposed drainage.
You would not need planning permission for the following works:
- Repairs to existing structures such as drainage ditches, culverts, drainage pipes and turn-byes, where the work consists of replacement of like for like
- Filling in of potholes with material already used on the surface eg natural stone or planings
but any new surfacing works to improve vehicular access that are more than minor repair works will normally require planning permission.
The Council may be able to assist with the repair of a track by providing some materials or by contributing to the costs of work carried out by you and your neighbours, as long as we are satisfied with the work.
To discuss your proposals or request assistance with works, please Contact Highways.