Rights of way

Advice for farmers and landowners

The Rights of Way Act 1990 (link opens in new window) states that you must not:

  • plough or disturb headland or field edge paths
  • fail to restore a cross field route

If you have to disturb a cross-field path, you have to promptly:

  • level the surface so that it is convenient to use
  • ensure that path line is visible on the ground - tram lines are a useful first step
  • keep the route free of crops which block or fall across the path

A Right of Way must be restored to the full legal width recorded in the Definitive Map and Statement. Where no width is recorded, the 1990 Act provides the following minimum widths:

  • headland paths: public footpath 1.5 metres, public bridleway 3 metres
  • cross field paths: public footpath 1 metre, public bridleway 2 metres
  • cross field paths where crops lodge: public footpath 1.8 metres, public bridleway 3 metres

Land manager responsibilities:

  • to not obstruct paths, especially with the placing of plain, barbed or electrified wire across them 
  • to warn users of any potential dangers near the path
  • to keep hedges and other overhanging vegetation cut back
  • to not plough or disturb field edge paths
  • within 14 days of ploughing and cultivation, to restore paths so that they can be seen and used (and within 24 hours of any subsequent disturbance)
  • ensure that stiles and gates are in good order
  • not erect a new stile, gate or any other structure without our approval
  • follow rules relating to bulls. Any bull over 10 months is prohibited in a field crossed by a right of way, and any bull of recognised dairy breed is prohibited even if accompanied by cows or heifers 
  • provide adequate bridges where new ditches are made or existing ones widened
  • landowners and farmers may shoot on their land but not in such a way as to endanger the public using a right of way
  • apply to the Rights of Way team if you wish to alter a path's surface

Rights of Way policy documents

A number of policy documents relating to public rights of way have been developed, and these are shown below.

Applications policy (PDF 498.5KB)
Relating to Public Path Orders, Definitive Map Modification Orders and Town and Country Planning Act Orders

Enforcement policy (PDF 1.7MB)
Obstructions (temporary and permanent), farming issues (ploughing and cropping) and minerals deposited on the highway

Ploughing and cropping policy (PDF 1.8MB) Legislation and procedure for paths subject to farming operations

Least restrictive access policy (PDF)
Structures on the public path network that enable access to all

Livestock guidance (PDF 452.1KB)

Rights of Way standards (PDF 1.1MB)

Wind Farm: Working Practice Guidance Note (PDF 561.1KB)

Wind Farm: Technical Appendix (PDF 911.1KB)

Rights of Way Maintenance Policy (PDF 586.6KB)
This policy specifies how the rights of way network is to be maintained in order to ensure that public rights of way are accessible to everyone in the community
Rights of Way Maintenance Policy Appendices (PDF 932KB)