Public Rights of Way Information

Before completing a footpath report form, you may wish to browse the notes below. These have been taken from the Ramblers web site where comprehensive advice on footpath and bridleway maintenance is available. This can be found by clicking HERE.

Obstructions

Obstructed path

Anything that prevents the convenient use of a right of way and prevents the public from having free access over the whole of the way may be an unlawful obstruction.

Highway authorities (i.e. county councils and unitary authorities) are responsible for maintaining most rights of way and are under a duty to prevent and remove obstructions.

Obstructed stiles

If a stile or gate is obstructed with, for example, barbed wire, the highway authority should be informed. Obstructing a right of way is a criminal offence, and highway authorities have a duty to enforce the removal of any obstructions. If a highway authority fails to take action a member of the public can require it to do so.

Liability for defective stiles

If a walker is injured, or suffers damage to his property (e.g. clothing) because of the condition of a stile, there are two grounds for maintaining that the landowner is liable, as the landowner has a duty on to maintain, in a safe condition, any stile, gate or similar structure across a footpath or bridleway. Since a stile or gate is not technically part of the right of way (being there for the advantage of, and owned and maintained by the landowner) liability rests with the landowner.

The minimum and maximum widths of paths

When making good and marking paths after ploughing and cropping the occupier must restore the path to no less than the ‘minimum width’. This width is:
1m for a cross-field path;
1.5m for a field-edge path
2m for a cross-field bridleway;
3m for a field-edge bridleway;

Crops grown on paths

Section 137A of the Highways Act 1980, imposes a duty on the occupier of any agricultural land on which a crop other than grass has been sown or planted to ensure a right of way on the land is indicated to not less than its minimum width so as to be apparent to members of the public wishing to use it; and to prevent the crop from encroaching on the way, or any way on adjoining land, so as to render the public right of way inconvenient to use. A crop is considered to be encroaching on a right of way when any part of the crop grows on, or extends on to or over the path in such a way as to reduce its apparent width to less than its minimum width. Failure to comply with the duty is an offence and renders the occupier liable to prosecution.

For the occupier to be subject to the duty the crop must be other than ‘grass’. A crop is treated as grass if, and only if, it is a variety commonly used for pasture, silage or haymaking (whether or not that particular crop is intended for that use), and if it is not a cereal crop. Even if the crop is a non-cereal type of grass, if it grows in such a way as to cause an obstruction to the free passage, the occupier will commit an offence. The highway authority has a duty to enforce the removal of any obstructions to rights of way.

Signposting and waymarking of Public Rights of Way.

‘Signposting’ refers to the placing of a direction post where a public right of way leaves a tarmaced road. ‘Waymarking’ refers to the placing of arrows or other marks at points along the route of a right of way so that users can follow it accurately and confidently in places where there might otherwise be difficulty.

Signposting

Highway authorities (county councils or unitary authorities) have a legal duty to erect and maintain a signpost at every point where a right of way leaves a tarmaced road. A signpost must indicate the right of way's status; it may also say where it leads to and give distances if the highway authority considers it appropriate.

Waymarking

Highway authorities are required to place such signs along a path or way ‘as may in the opinion of the authority be required to assist persons unfamiliar with the locality’ to follow the route.

Report a problem

Click HERE to go to the RoW Report Form

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