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Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000: Public rights of way

Rights of way are minor highways that exist for the benefit of the community at large.

Historically they were an integral part of the country's transport system, but have long since evolved into a recreational web which enables people to explore the countryside on foot, on horseback or on wheels.

At the same time, some parts of the rights of way network, in both rural and urban areas, provide a convenient means of travelling from one place to another, particularly for short journeys.

Part II of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 improves the legislation governing the administration and management of rights of way. It seeks to modernise the rights of way system to better meet the needs of today's users and land managers and also to complement proposals on access to open country.

This page explains how Defra is implementing Part II of the Act and how we are consulting on regulations which give effect to many of the provisions in Part II. The information is organised as follows:

Current consultations

Recent consultations

You can find below details of consultations which are now closed, and, where appropriate, the regulations which have now been made.

Crime prevention and school safety measures

The crime prevention provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 came into force in February 2003.

Schedule 6 of the Act inserts sections 118B and 119B into the Highways Act 1980. These sections enable local highway authorities to make an application to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to have an area designated for the purposes of crime prevention, so that they can close or divert rights of way which are facilitating offences such as robbery, arson, burglary and drug-dealing. These sections also enable highway authorities to close or divert a right of way that crosses school land, if necessary, for the purpose of protecting pupils or staff.

The first designation order was made in September 2003 when 52 areas in 11 different local authorities were designated. The successful authorities were: Bradford (1 area); Dudley (1); Halton (1); Knowsley (3); Manchester (25); Milton Keynes (1) (Designation withdrawn 15/11/2004); Redcar-Cleveland (4); Rochdale (1); Rotherham (5); Salford (4) and Walsall (6).

N.B. If you have problems displaying these maps, you should upgrade to version 6.0 or higher of the Adobe Acrobat reader.

The second designation order was made in February 2004 when 20 areas in 9 different local authorities were designated. The successful authorities were: Brighton & Hove (1 area); Hillingdon (1); Leeds (7); Middlesbrough (1); Nottingham (1); Oldham (3); Swale (1); Wirral (2) and York (3).

Both orders (Reference numbers: 1479/2003 and 1239/2004) can be viewed at www.hmso.gov.uk.

The third designation order was made in March 2005 when 10 areas in 3 different local authorities were designated. The successful authorities were North East Lincolnshire (2 areas); Nottingham (1) and Wolverhampton (7).

The fourth designation order was made in March 2005 when 2 areas in 2 different local authorities were designated. The successful authorities were Stockport (1 area) and Wigan (1).

For details of the consultation paper and analysis of responses as well as links to other useful websites, follow the links below.

In December 2004, the Government published the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill. On 7 April 2005 the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill received Royal Assent, and became the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.

Removal of obstructions on rights of way

Section 63 of the Act is now in force. The powers were commenced on 13 February 2004 in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (Commencement No. 4) Order 2004 SI No. 292/2004.

Section 63 inserts new sections 130A-130D into the Highways Act 1980. The sections enable any person to serve a notice on a local highway authority, requesting it to secure the removal of an obstruction on a public right of way. Should the authority refuse or fail to take action, the applicant can seek a magistrates' court order compelling the authority to act.

Process for getting an obstruction removed

The link below takes you to a flowchart which sets out the various stages.

The form of the notices is set out in the Removal of Obstructions from Highways (Notices etc) (England) Regulations 2004, which came into force on 10 March 2004. Guidance was issued to coincide with these regulations setting out how the process will work.

Copies of this guidance (which includes the forms of notices prescribed in these regulations) have been sent to local authorities. The guidance can be viewed below and printed copies are available from Admail 6000, London SW1A 2XX 08459 556000 (quote reference PB 9193).

The notices are also set out individually below in Word format to enable them to be downloaded and completed. We hope this will be particularly useful for anyone wishing to report an obstruction.

Copies of the statutory instruments are at www.hmso.gov.uk. Copies can also be purchased from www.tso.co.uk/bookshop or ordered on 0870 600 5522.

  • Guidance to Local Authorities pdf file (35 KB)
  • Form 1 - Notice requesting the authority to remove the obstruction

  • Form 2 - Notification by authority to person(s) responsible for obstruction

  • Form 3 - Notice to the person who used Form 1 that the authority have served Form 2
  • Form 4 - Notification to the authority that the person who used Form 1 intends to apply to a Magistrate's Court to require the authority to take action

  • Form 5 - Notice of a Magistrate's Court Order having been made
Survey of Local Highway Authorities

In July and August 2005 Defra surveyed all of the unitary, metropolitan districts and county councils in England to identify how many notices they had received under the new provisions, and how many of these had ended up in the courts. We had responses from 106 of the 116 councils we contacted.

There were 391 notices served between February 2004, when the legislation came into force, and July/August 2005. Of these only 5 reached the magistrates’ court, The vast majority of cases are therefore being resolved without recourse to the courts. This is very encouraging.

 

Use of mechanically propelled vehicles on rights of way

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 strengthened the offence of driving mechanically propelled vehicles elsewhere than on roads (section 34, Road Traffic Act 1988). It also introduced a new category of right of way - the Restricted Byway - to replace the existing category known as Road Used as Public Path. The Government has also carried out a review of policy on the use of motorised vehicles in the countryside and published a consultation paper on the "Use of mechanically propelled vehicles on Rights of Way" in December 2003.

Local Access Forums

Information on Local Access Forums can be found on the Access to Open Countryside pages.

Rights of way improvement plans

Sections 60 to 62 of the Act require local highway authorities to prepare and publish Rights of Way Improvement Plans for improving rights of way in their areas, taking into account the needs of the public including disabled people. The provisions came into effect on 21 November 2002.

Statutory guidance to local authorities in England on preparing, publishing, assessing and reviewing Rights of Way Improvement Plans was issued on 29 November 2002.

With the exception of inner London authorities, and those rated as excellent by the Audit Commission under Comprehensive Performance Assessment, all local authorities in England are required to publish their first Rights of Way Improvement Plan by November 2007. From 2005 Rights of Way Improvement Plans will be progressively integrated into Local Transport Plans.

As a first step local highway authorities were required to submit a short progress report on the development of their ROWIP with their latest Local Transport Plan which was submitted to the Department of Transport (DfT) on 31 July 2005. See:

Land Use Consultants undertook an analysis of the Rights of Way (ROW) data contained in provisional Local Transport Plans (LTP). A summary of the analysis has been published, showing how the information has been fed into the evaluation of LTPs and what the next steps are:

Further guidance was issued to local authorities on 20 January 2006 on the integration of ROWIPs and LTPs.

Defra have been working closely with the Countryside Agency to help local authorities prepare their first ROWIPs.

Diversions of rights of way (1) for the protection of sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and (2) temporary diversions for dangerous works

Defra published a consultation paper on 4 August seeking views on two separate provisions which will enable the rights of way network to be managed more sustainably, respecting the needs of the environment, landowners and users.

SSSI diversions

SSSIs conserve and protect the best of England's wildlife, geological and physiographical heritage.

They are a key component of the Government's overall nature conservation strategy set out in "Working with the Grain of Nature: A biodiversity strategy for England". There is also a Government Public Service Agreement target to have 95% of the SSSI area in England in favourable or recovering condition by 2010. For further information see:

Temporary diversions for dangerous works

These provisions will give occupiers of land a right to temporarily divert footpaths and bridleways on their land where works of a prescribed description are likely to cause danger to users. For further information see:

Registers of modifications, applications and declarations

In November 2004 Defra published a consultation paper setting out the Government's proposals for the contents of the three registers that local authorities are required to establish under various provisions to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

This register aims to help increase knowledge among landowners, users of rights of way, and the general public about applications which could result or have resulted in changes to the definitive map and/or statement. It will also help to avoid duplication of work where someone has already made an application for a definitive map modification order in respect of a particular matter.

This guidance is for English Surveying Authorities who are required to keep a register under section 53B of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Section 53B of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 requires authorities to set up a register of applications made under section 53 of the 1981 Act to modify the definitive map or statement.

Fact sheet

For general information about Part II of the Act, see the fact sheet.

Archive

Contact details

Sponsorship, Landscape & Recreation Division
Rights of Way Branch (SLR5)
Defra
Zone 1/02
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol BS1 6EB
Tel: 0117 372 6274
Fax: 0117 372 8250
Email: rights.ofway@defra.gsi.gov.uk

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  Page last modified: 1 February 2006
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