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Frequently reported problems

Obstructions and encroachment (sections 137, 137ZA and s143 of the Highways Act 1980)

  • It is an offence to obstruct or encroach upon public rights of way. Examples are farm machinery, fencing, bales, buildings, waste materials and rubbish. Obstructions must be removed by the landowner/occupier.
  • Where a long standing obstruction is impractical to remove, the Council may request the landowner to apply for a public path diversion order, for which there is a charge. An alternative must be provided until the legal process is completed. Link to legal Order section?
  • Minor obstructions must be removed by the landowner / occupier.
  • Where there is a major obstruction that is too costly or impractical to remove, the Council will request the landowner to apply for a public path diversion order. An alternative route must be provided until the legal process is completed.
  • The local authorities are responsible for clearing any vegetation naturally growing on the surface if at a path. We have an annual maintenance schedule to clear the routes that are known to be susceptible to undergrowth and also responds to requests for clearance as required.

Temporary Closures (section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984)

  • The Highway Authority has powers to temporarily close public rights of way if is necessary for works to be carried out that make it impossible for the public to use a path.
  • A suitable alternative route must be provided for the public to use.
  • The applicant for the closure will need to provide details of the works and route affected such as how long the route is likely to be closed and possible alternative routes. They will also be required to reinstate the path to the appropriate standard once the works have been completed.
  • There is usually a charge for the processing and advertising of these closures.
  • Gates and Stiles Section 146 of the Highways Act 1980
  • Landowners have a duty to ensure gates and stiles are kept in a good state of repair and easily accessible.
  • Before erecting a new gate (unless replacing a former structure) across a Right of Way, consent must be obtained from the Council.
  • The Highway Authority or Council may assist with the provision or installation of gates for example; where permission is given to upgrade from a stile to a gate or kissing gate.that are compliant with the British Standard 2706:2006 in line with the Equalities Act 2010, more guidance on this may be found in the Defra Booklet Guidance on Structures Link to Defra website.
  • The Highway Authority, Parish Council or other External organisations may assist with the provision or installation of gates on a Promoted Route.

Barbed wire and electric fences (sections 137, 137ZA, 149 and 164 of the Highways Act 1980)

  • Placing barbed wire or electric fences across or alongside a Right of Way, without a safe means of passing on the line of the path, is an unlawful obstruction.
  • Placing barbed wire or an electric fence on or alongside a Right of Way that is a nuisance or a danger is also an offence.
  • If an electric fence is necessary for agricultural purposes, it must be made safe by, for example, covering with a plastic pipe or using an insulated handle and hook. Adequate warning signs must also be clearly displayed.
  • If barbed wire or an electric fence is placed alongside a public path, you must allow an additional width in addition to the legal minimum. See later for path widths.
  • Barbed wire attached to the outside of a stile post must have the barbs flattened. It must not be attached around the post or across a rail.

Ploughing and cropping (sections 134 and 137A of the Highways Act 1980, amended by the Rights of Way Act 1990, section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and section 161 of the Highways Act 1980)

  • Cross field paths that are ploughed must be reinstated and clearly marked within 14 days of the surface being disturbed, and within 24hrs of any subsequent disturbance.
  • Headland paths must not be ploughed in any circumstances and left undisturbed to at least their minimum width as defined or if not defined using the width guide below. The minimum width for a cross-field footpath is 1m, and 1.5m for the headland. The width of the path across a field should be left unsown or sprayed as the crop (other than grass) emerges.
  • Marking the line clearly is required by law, and will prevent unintentional trespass and crop damage. Spray, cut or roll the crop along the line of the path before the crop becomes unmanageable.
  • Tall crops can grow to 2 metres in height, and will fall across and block a path unless a strip in excess of the minimum is left.
  • The Health and Safety Executive advises that rights of way should not be oversprayed and that warning notices may be required to advise the public of any potential hazard).

Required path widths in metres;

Footpath - cross field; min. 1.0m, max. 1.8m
Footpath - field edge/headland; min. 1.5m, max. 1.8m
Bridleway - cross field; min. 2.0m, max. 3.0m
Bridleway- field edge/headland; min. 3.0m, max. 3.0m
Other unsurfaced highway; min. 3.0m, max. 5.0m

Bulls and dangerous animals (section 66 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and section 2 Animals Act of the 1971)

  • It is an offence to keep any bull in a field crossed by a Right of Way, unless it is less than 10 months old, or is of a recognised beef breed and accompanied by heifers.
  • The Health and Safety Executive recommends that a sign should be displayed at access points to a field that contains a bull. This should say ‘Bull in Field’ and not use other text to suggest the bull is in any way dangerous or aggressive.
  • It is an offence to keep any animal that is known to be aggressive or dangerous in a field crossed by a Right of Way. An individual injured by any animal whilst using a Public Right of Way can sue the owner for personal injury.

Misleading Signs (section 132A of the Highways Act 1980)

  • Any sign that deliberately mis-informs a path user to the effect of discouraging use of a public path is an offence e.g. Leaving a ‘Bull in Field’ sign up if the bull has been removed.
  • The Council may remove any sign it considers misleading, or take steps in accordance with the Enforcement Policy.

Overhanging Vegetation (section 154 of the Highways Act 1980)

  • Trees and hedges that grow alongside a right of way are the responsibility of the landowner or occupier.
  • Where a hedge, tree or shrub overhangs any public path so as to endanger or obstruct the passage of pedestrians or horse riders, the Council may request its removal within 14 days.