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Public Rights of Way general guidance

If you need any further information please contact the Public Rights of Way team.

Generally no, only on Open Access and designated Common Land and Village Greens. On a Public Right of Way, you must stay on the designated linear route.
No. In 1781 Lord Mansfield ruled on a natural deviation “it is for the general good that people pass into another line.”
No, this is  not true. Public rights of way continue to exist indefinitely unless the land they cross is destroyed (for example by coastal erosion), or extinguished by a legal process. However, the opposite is true, as a public right of way can be acquired in certain circumstances where there was none previously if a route is used for 20 years (Section 53, Highways Act 1980) or less time (if there is sufficient frequent use) under common law.
The definitive map and statement only occasionally specifies the width of a path. However, sometimes there is reliable documentary evidence that indicates the width. If the path is a track or sunken lane the width will usually be the full width between the hedges, walls or banks.
Footpaths and bridleways can be diverted by the landowner under the Highways Act 1980 or under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (if the right of way has to be moved because of development and planning consent has been given). See How can I get the definitive map changed? for more information.

No. Lindley J. said “The duty of the highway surveyors is to keep the road as dedicated to the public in such a state as to be safe and fit for ordinary traffic”. Burgess v Northwich Local Board (1880)Link opens in a new window


It is possible to change the status of a right of way (e.g. footpath to bridleway), for example if horse riders have used a footpath for several years without being challenged by the landowner it may be possible to apply to have the footpath 'upgraded' to a bridleway.

Check whether the path is a public right of way on the map.
If the path is recorded as a public right of way please contact the Public Rights of Way team to report the problem.

If the path is not recorded but has been used for 20 years or more than you may wish to apply under Section 53, Highways Act 1980 to claim the path as of right.
A landowner may apply for an extinguishment or diversion order, although certain criteria must be met and the public are allowed opportunity to object. Please contact the Public Rights of Way team for more information.
If you are using an Ordnance Survey map these show public rights of way but there may have been changes to the network since publication of the OS map. It is advisable to check the definitive map and statement as this is the legal record of public rights of way. If the path is not shown on the definitive map and statement but you have been using the path for several years it may be possible to add it to the definitive map and statement.
The definitive map and statement are not always complete. Some rights of way may have been missed off the map and other paths may have been incorrectly recorded with the wrong status. These mistakes may be corrected by modification order; a formal process which modifies the definitive map and statement. Councils process orders when they come across evidence that a change is needed. However, the public may gather their own evidence and apply for an order. This often includes user evidence, from people who have used a route; and documentary evidence, copies of historic maps and documents.
The Definitive Map and Statements are held at County Hall, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff CF10 4UW. Contact the Public Rights of Way to arrange a visit.
No. A path depicted on an O.S. map portrays a surveyed physical feature and does not bestow legal status on unregistered paths.


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Cymraeg