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Byelaws powers for local authorities

Local authorities have powers under certain Acts of Parliament to make byelaws on Common Land and Town and Village Greens, Country Parks and National Parks. Byelaws are local laws that create criminal offences. Before they can come into effect, byelaws must be confirmed by a Secretary of State. Defra deals with applications from local authorities and parish and town councils for confirmation of byelaws for which the Minister for Rural Affairs as Secretary of State is the confirming authority.

Country Parks are rather less definite areas than National Parks or Common Land. Loosely, they are areas designated for people to visit and enjoy recreation in a countryside environment. There are around 250 recognised Country Parks in England and Wales attracting some 57 million visitors a year. Most were designated in the 1970s, under the Countryside Act with the support of the former Countryside Commission. The majority are owned and run by local authorities.

The Countryside Act 1968 states that a Country Park is "a park or pleasure ground for the purpose of providing, or improving, opportunities for the enjoyment of the countryside by the public". In amplification of this definition the Countryside Commission considered that a Country Park is an area of land, or land and water normally not less than 25 acres in extent, designed to offer to the public, with or without charge, opportunity for recreational activities in the countryside. There is not necessarily any public rights of access to Country Parks and visitors are subject to any byelaws made by the local authority and enforced in the parks.

The following guidance has been prepared following a review of procedures aimed at reducing the time taken to confirm byelaws. The guidance is intended for the benefit of byelaw-making authorities wishing to make or amend byelaws relating to countryside recreation which require confirmation by the Secretary of State for Defra. The guidance and application forms can be downloaded using the following links:

Sealed or draft byelaws and any queries should be addressed to:

The Recreation and Access Team
Zone 1/02
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol BS1 6EB

Draft byelaws and general queries can also be sent by email to:

Other types of byelaws and related legislation are confirmed by various different authorities.

Byelaw powers for the Coast

The Guide for managing coastal activities (PDF 353 KB) provides guidance for local authorities on their powers to regulate activity and their responsibilities to promote good practice among all users of the coast. As well as describing the powers that can be used to control jet skis and other recreational craft, it gives examples of successful mixes of voluntary and legislative action (including zoning and enforcement) by local authorities. Please note that there is an updated Appendix 2 (PDF 61 KB) to this Guide giving contact details for authorities, agencies and other bodies. This should replace the one in the original document above.

Page last modified: 09 March 2009
Page published: 23 October 2008