There are two ways in which public rights of way can come into being. Firstly they can be dedicated to the public by the landowner, an offer which is accepted on behalf of the public by the highway authority. Secondly they can be claimed ‘as of right’. These ‘claims’ are made when members of the public believe, through continued use, that they have a public right to use a particular way.

New public rights of way can come into existence through public use, but this does not happen if the landowner has taken sufficient action to make it clear to the public that they have no right to cross his land.  The erection of fences or notices may suffice but sometimes they are difficult to maintain in place.
Landowners can protect themselves against public rights of way claims based solely on public use by depositing with the council a map, statement and statutory declaration showing which public rights of way exist, if any, over their land. This is known as a declaration under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980, and needs to be renewed every twenty years.

From the date of the deposit it will not be possible for any additional public rights of way over the land to be claimed through public use, however it is still possible for a right of way to be established through twenty years of continuous and uninterrupted use before the deposit was made. A public right of way can also be established if historical evidence is found which shows that a public right of way exists or is reasonably alleged to exist.

Once lodged with the council, the map, statement and declaration become public documents and available for public inspection.  All local authorities are required to keep a register of maps and statements deposited and declarations lodged under Section 31(6) of the Act.  A map of areas for which a deposit has been received is available on the My Maps part of this website in the Transport and Streets category.

Both the Country Landowners Association and the National Farmers Union have promoted the wider use of Section 31(6) disclaimers.  Further advice and information can be obtained from the Public Rights of Way Team at the Council or from your local CLA or NFU representative.  A guidance note on making a deposit has been prepared for landowners and is available for download.

To arrange for a search of the Definitive Map, or for further advice and information on the preparation of the statement and statutory declaration, contact us

Public Rights of Way

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The Wellsprings

Victoria Square



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