While everyone should be able to appreciate and enjoy the British countryside, public access causes a range of issues and it is in landowners’ interest to prevent new routes being created.
Increasing levels of dog ownership and the straying of walkers away from public footpaths can create other issues including livestock worrying incidents, but this is not all. Particular attention should be paid to land with development potential, as the existence of a public right of way could delay and complicate matters.
Under the Highways Act 1980, if members of the public can demonstrate that they have used a route without force, without secrecy and without permission continuously for a period of 20 years, ultimately a new public right of way can be created.
Recent case law has shown that the classic method of locking the gate of a track or field on Christmas Day is no longer sufficient to prevent claims for a right of way. Prominent signage is another method, though correct wording and positioning are vital, and are still not always successful.
A reliable method to prevent additional rights of way being created is to lodge a deposit, map and statement under s31(6) of the Act. This essentially crystallises any existing public rights of way and prevents the dedication of any new ones, except where 20 years of uninterrupted use has already taken place and can be proven, or where rights have come to light as a result of historical evidence.
Hobbs Parker Property Consultants have already undertaken this process on behalf of a number of landowners and would be pleased to assist with yours.