Public Rights of Way - Landowners Stay Aware

Landowners have experienced an increase in the public encroaching onto their land. Covid-19 has placed restrictions on the public’s movements, which has resulted in people re-evaluating their lives and taking steps to enhance their health and wellbeing during lockdown.

A public right of way can be established by the public passing and repassing over landowners’ land, either by walking, running, biking or horse riding, and it being deemed ‘dedicated’. This is, of course, done by way of trespass for a continuous period (typically 20 years but it can be less). The trespass does not need to be committed by many people, but should be sufficient enough for the landowner to be aware.

The Highways Act provides that a public right of way is “…deemed to have been dedicated…unless there is sufficient evidence that there was no intention during that period to dedicate it.” Caselaw has proven that the Ramblers Association will not hesitate to make applications for new rights of way to gain recognition as public footpaths and bridleways.

Many landowners display signs or implement fences to advertise that they will not be dedicating any public rights of way. However, a more lasting preventative method would be for landowners to deposit a statement and map with their local council to acknowledge existing public rights of way over their land and declare that they do not intend to dedicate any additional rights of way. Once deposited, 20 years’ protection will be granted to the landowner from the date of the deposit.

The costs involved in obtaining and renewing the above protection is justified by the benefits and potential costs if the landowners do not take this action (i.e. the anticipated costs which would be incurred by the landowners contesting any future rights of way claims against their land).

If you have any queries on the above information or on any aspect of property law, contact Cara O’Donoghue at Birkett Long LLP on 01206 217311 or


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The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.