A footpath or other Right of Way can be created as the general public see land as a free for all and take it upon themselves to wander as they wish. Landowners should forward think to prevent rights of way from being created without their permission. If the route of a permissive path is used uninterrupted for 20 years then the person using that path can acquire a right of way just because of the uninterrupted use for this period of time. This right cannot be created if the users use the right in secret, with force or with consent therefore there is opportunity to prevent a right from being created.
The emphasis is on the landowner to actively prevent additional rights of way from being acquired. Steps that we would recommend that you take include:
- Physical actions such as displaying notices, locking gates and fencing the land, or
- Legal action under section 31 (6) of the Highways Act 1980
Under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 landowners have the opportunity to effectively stop the clock for 20 years on new rights of way being created. It is a two-step procedure where the Council will require a plan to record the existing rights of way as well as a statement and declaration in their prescribed form to accompany this. Each Council has their own set of charges for handling Section 31(6) deposits.
We have recently assisted a landowner in Worcestershire with the submission of a Section 31(6) Deposit to prevent a new right of way over a farm track being created. Dog walkers were using the track as it was an easier route than traversing the field on the route of the footpath. They now do not need to renew their declaration until 2037.
If you are concerned about a third party acquiring a right of way over your land or need assistance with a Section 31(6) deposit then call Carver Knowles on 01684 853400.