Landowners and farmers can see permissive paths turning into public rights way where there has been uninterrupted use on that route for at least 20 years.

Rest assured that farmers and landowners can protect their land against claims if they can show that they did not intend such rights to be acquired. This can include physical actions such as displaying notices, locking access gates or fencing the land. There are also legal provisions that farmers can use to prevent rights of way under section 31(6) Highways Act 1980.

Under section 31(6) an owner of land may deposit with their appropriate council;

  • A statement indicating what ways (if any) exists over the land that the owner admits have been dedicated as highways
  • A map of their land showing the location (if any) of such rights

Protecting your land against further rights of way is a two-step process. Depositing a statement (as mentioned above) demonstrates to the council what rights of way you admit exist over your land. In order to prevent any additional rights of way being created, a statutory declaration must be submitted within 20 years of submitting the original statement. This will prevent any additional rights of way over the land that were not shown on the original map which can be renewed every 20 years.

Most local authorities have definitive rights of way maps available online allowing landowners to check what rights of way exist over their land. If your land is within either Herefordshire, Worcestershire or Gloucestershire click on the name to direct you to the relevant webpage.

How do I make a deposit under section 31(6)?

A statement must be submitted to the appropriate council accompanied by an Ordnance Survey map. The map will need to show edged ownership boundaries and any routes which have been dedicated as public rights of way coloured separately. The accompanying statement should specify what type of public right of way each colour represents. These can include Footpaths, Bridleways, restricted Byways and Byways Open to All Traffic.

If you are renewing an existing deposit made under section 31(6) the declaration can simply refer to the previously deposited map. From 1st October 2013 local authorities can no charge a basic fee which is set by each local authority.

If you have any questions or would like assistance in completing a section 31(6) please call Carver Knowles on 01684 853400 and one of our colleagues will be more than happy to help.