Public Rights of Way: How to Protect Farmland

11th December 2019

Footpath over farmland

The majority of farms have some form of public right of way across them, whether it is a footpath, bridleway or byway. But as many landowners are aware not all members of the public adhere to the designated path. If repeated over a number of years, landowners are vulnerable to members of the public claiming new rights over their land.

As such it is imperative landowners take active steps to prevent members of the public accessing private land, to help prevent new rights of way being imposed.

A new right of way can be claimed if a route has been used for at least 20 years without interruption, as long as it was used without secrecy, force or the landowner’s permission.

From past experience, we have seen this become a common problem for landowners who own a large acreage and cannot regularly monitor all their land. However, it can occur anywhere and in recently years, it tends to be more apparent around built-up areas, particularly where members of the public have been walking their dogs.

A simple process of submitting a statement under Section 31 (6) of the Highways Act 1980

to the local authority avoids new rights of way being inflicted and provides 20 year’s security for the landowner that the land is protected.

Part of this submission will be a map of the land with the existing rights of way marked, and the landowner should state that they do not wish any more footpaths to be designated over it. The local authority will then present this publicly for any objections. If there are no objections, the landowner can submit a document requesting that the land be protected from new rights of way for 20 years.

In scenarios, whereby the land has changed hands within this time, the new owner can still request the renewal based on when their predecessor made the submission. However, if the cover has expired, the full process will have to be carried out again.

If you would like to understand in more detail how best to protect your land against new public rights of way, then contact our Rural Professional Team within your regional office:

Northumberland, Borders & Cumbria – 01665 603231
County Durham – 01388 527966
Yorkshire – 01677 425301

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