As England entered Lockdown 3.0, despite the weather, the ‘daily walk’ once again came to the fore as a valuable source of respite.
While it’s great to see people enjoying the countryside, the flip-side for landowners is that there are a number of practical and potential legal issues to contend with as the use of public rights of way intensifies.
The wet and snowy weather coupled with social distancing has seen in many places steadily widening footpaths into crops, on top of the usual issues such as gates being left open.
On the legal side, landowners are advised to stay aware and up to date with the routes people are using.
While the duration of a pandemic (we hope!) is not long enough to create future issues in terms of rights of way creation, now is a good time to consider whether your interests are protected.
As a landowner you can “crystallise” existing public rights of way (PROW), and prevent the creation of new ones, by lodging a deposit, map and statement with the local authority under s31(6) of the Highways Act 1980.
Doing so essentially makes it clear that you do not wish to dedicate any further PROW, and clearly sets out and records the existing ones.
It is important to note that these deposits do not provide protection where 20 years of uninterrupted use can be proven, or where rights have come to light as a result of historical evidence. They are a good starting point to avoid the creation of new rights.
If you’re experiencing an increase in traffic on your footpaths and would like to talk to us about preventing new rights being created, we’d be delighted to assist you with this process. You can contact us here.