Legal changes to Public Rights of Way
Landowners, occupiers or lessees may apply to the council for the diversion or closure of footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways on their land, and the council can itself initiate path diversion or creation orders.
Most applications for diversions are either
- to allow for more convenient farming practices - the council's job is to ensure that the diversion will be substantially as convenient (and enjoyable) for the public as the existing right of way
- or for construction work (which needs planning permission) - here the council must be convinced that the change is necessary to enable the proposed development to go ahead.
Applications for closures not connected with planning applications are less common than diversions - simply because the only legally acceptable reason for a closure is because the path or way is no longer needed for public use.
With increasing use of public rights of way, closure applications are normally opposed and it is very difficult for them to succeed. Extensive consultation is required for all path orders and, even if the council agrees to make an Order, the public has the right to object. If these objections are not withdrawn, the council must forward the order for final decision to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Administrative costs including advertising for stopping up or diverting a public right of way are charged to the applicant (min £1,100, max £6,000, inclusive of the cost of advertising the proposal). The applicant must also bear the cost of any work needed to bring the new routes up to an acceptable standard.
It is always a good idea to talk to the local parish council, the Ramblers' Association and the British Horse Society before making proposals affecting footpaths, bridleways or restricted byways. This can help everyone work together to find acceptable proposals and prevent sometimes costly delays - including the possibility of a public inquiry.
New footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways can be set up by entering into a Creation Agreement with landowners, and the council can itself create public rights of way on its own land.