A new court ruling on creating new public rights of way could provide expensive for landowners if they fail to take steps to protect their land, warns Rural Partner Rebecca Ruck Keene. In a recent case heard in the Court of Appeal, judges ruled that if a person or group wants their local authority to create a public right of way on private land, that local authority must apply to the Planning Inspector to do so even if the application is unlikely to succeed.
When any application is made, it may result in the landowners having to fight the claim to stop the right of way from becoming official. These applications could cost landowners time and money. Rebecca said: “An application to add or amend a public right of way can be submitted to the Local Authority if the landowner wants it or an unofficial route has been consistently used by the public. If evidence is discovered that a path or way has been used over many years, a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO) to make the route an official right of way can then be made by a local authority to the Planning Inspector. Anyone can ask their local authority to look into creating a new public right of way. Once a public right of way has been approved, they are very difficult to remove. The new ruling could make these applications more frequent, meaning landowners may have to fork out extra money to fight these claims.”
However, Rebecca said there are steps landowners can take to save money by making it less likely that applications for new rights of way are made. “Putting up signs on land saying access is prohibited can help – this makes it less likely the public will begin to use landowners’ property as a right of way. Preventing access by making sure gates are locked and boundaries are secure is also a good idea, as long as any existing rights of way remain accessible. Another step that landowners can take is to submit a ‘landowner statement’ to their local authority under the Highways Act. The statement formally shows landowners have no intention of creating further public rights of way for the next 20 years, which offers protection against new applications. We would encourage landowners who have any questions about the new ruling and what they can do to protect their land to get in touch.”
If you need help and advice in managing your land or understanding the impact of changing legislation, our rural consultancy teams across the UK are here to help. Find out more here