Anyone can claim a new public right of way, or alter an existing one, by applying for a Modification Order or Public Path Order.
Modification Orders are used to add new rights of way to the map and statement.
A claim for a new right of way can be based on:
public use, or
documentary evidence that suggests a right of way exists, or
documentary evidence that suggests there are higher rights to an existing path (e.g. that show a current footpath should be a bridleway).
This fact sheet guide is a simple introduction to the Definitive Map and to the Modification Orders - Definitive Map Modification Orders fact sheet [PDF]
To claim a new route based on public use it's necessary to show the proposed route has been used for 20 years or more without interruption, before the right to use it was questioned. Your right to use a route could be called into question by the appearance of new fences blocking the path, no entry signs, or by being told you cannot use it by the landowner.
It is possible for landowners to refute a claim for a new route if they can show that they didn’t intend to dedicate the land to the public and that they’d taken steps to stop public rights being established. This could be demonstrated by repeatedly putting up 'no right of way' signs for example, or signing a Statutory Declaration to show they do not plan to dedicate any rights of way across their land.
If you have been using a route regularly, and your right to use it has come into question please contact us for more information on claiming a right of way.
New paths can be added to the Definitive Map and Statement if historical documentary evidence shows they existed in the past and that these rights have not been extinguished. We use many different sources of historical information to identify rights of way, such as Inclosure Awards and Maps (historical legal records that record divisions of land into private ownership), Inland Revenue records and railway plans. Often documentary evidence can be used to support applications for new rights of way that are based on public use.
Sorting out legal changes to public rights of way is complex and time consuming. Some claims can take years to settle. The rights of way modification order register lists all outstanding claims for changes to the County's Definitive Map and Statement made by members of the public or interest groups such as the Ramblers' Association.
Diverting, creating and extinguishing paths
Public Path Orders
Public Path Orders (PPOs) can be used to create, divert or 'stop up' public footpaths and bridleways. Anyone, including organisations, can propose to change the path network.
We follow a set of legal procedures when considering an application for a PPO. These are in place to make sure the public are made aware of any changes to the path network, and that everyone has the opportunity to state their views. These opinions are taken into account before a final decision is made.
Diverting a path
Before we can divert a path, we must be satisfied that:
It's in the interests of either the public, the owner, lessee or occupier of the land
The diversion brings the public to another point on the same path or another highway connected to it; and it must be as convenient to the public to use this alternative route
There won’t be a negative effect on public enjoyment of the path as a whole, on other land served by the existing path and on land affected by any proposed new path.
These conditions relate to section 119 of the Highways Act 1980.
Creating a new path
We can only create a new path after considering:
How it might add to the convenience or enjoyment of a substantial section of the public or of local residents
The effect that the creation would have on the rights of those with an interest in the land
The effect on agriculture, forestry and nature conservation.
Landowners can also create a new right of way by signing a creation agreement, for example local councils, housing estate developers or industrial estate owners can use a creation agreement to create new rights of way that access their developments or buildings.
These conditions relate to section 26 of the Highways Act 1980.
Extinguishing a path
Before making an order to ‘stop up’ a public path, we must be satisfied that:
It’s not needed for public use
There's no negative effect on the land served by the path, taking into account the provisions for compensation.
We’ll have to disregard any temporary circumstances that prevent or reduce public use of the path, such as overgrown weeds, lack of street lighting, or illegal use by mini motos.
These conditions relate to Section 118 of the Highways Act 1980.