With strategic development being an opportunity for many more of our clients than 20 years ago, it is now more important than ever to ensure that the value of land is safeguarded.
One way to do this is to prevent the creation of any new rights of way over land. Put simply, if for instance members of the public walk their dogs or ride their horses around a field regularly for 20 years without any challenge, it is possible for a public footpath or bridleway to come into being by deemed dedication. Anyone can make an application under section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to have a route recorded or upgraded on the Definitive Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way which is the legal record of all rights of way.
However, a landowner can prevent the creation of public rights of way by taking steps to make it clear to members of the public they have no right to be on the land and that the owner has no intention to dedicate a public right of way. These steps could include:-
- Erection of notices or signs
- Locking the gate or other entrance to the field
- Challenging members of the public
- Depositing a landowner statement with the relevant highway authority
Arguably the landowner statement is the most effective. There are two types of landowner statements. Firstly, a section 31(6) deposit which is a statement accompanied by a plan and declaration deposited with the relevant authority acknowledging any existing rights of way across land and with the owner declaring that there is no intention to dedicate any further public rights of way. Secondly, a section 15A(1) deposit is a statement by a landowner accompanied by a plan which prevents a claim that land is a town or village green (i.e. somewhere which has been used by the public for lawful sports and pastimes). Many authorities permit you to make a combined statement to cover both of these issues.
To make such a statement, contact the relevant Authority who will advise on the procedure. There will be a fee due to register the statement but this may save you a lot more in the long run should a claimed right of way prohibit future plans.
You should note that section 31(6) and 15A(1) deposits only last for 20 years and should be renewed once this period has expired. You should also be aware that any deposit made will be published on the highway authority’s website and made available to the public.
For more information please contact Stephanie Dennis on 01604 233233 or click here to email Stephanie.