The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a huge increase in people getting out and accessing the open countryside on their doorstep. Whilst there is an abundance of public footpaths available to the public, landowners should be vigilant to prevent new rights being claimed over their land.

New rights can be claimed by anyone, where evidence demonstrates paths have been used without consent, uninterruptedly for over 20 years.

Under 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980, landowners can submit a statement of the existing public rights of way over the land which will prevent any new rights being claimed for a period of 20 years. Statements must be submitted to the local council with the required plans and fee then followed up by a declaration within 20 years.

New statements lodged after 1st October 2013 last for a period of 20 years, however, statements submitted prior to this date only last for 10 years and it’s important that subsequent declarations are submitted to prevent new rights being claim.

An alternative to prevent rights being claimed is by granting permissive access using signage. Granting permission for walkers to use the land will prevent a claim as the land has been used with consent and thus not meeting the criteria.

In addition to new Public Rights of Way, statements under s15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006 can be made to prevent the creation of Town and Village Greens. Similarly to public footpaths, the submission of a valid statement and declaration will stop applications for new Town and Village Greens for a period of 20 years.

Carver Knowles are encouraging landowners to take protective measures to ensure new public rights of way are not claimed. If you are concerned about the creation of new rights of way and would like advice please contact Josh Balsdon on 01684 853400 or email and we will be more than happy to assist.