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Right of Way - Protect Your Land

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If members of the public, such as a rambling organisation, can show that they have crossed over your land, along the same route, for upwards of 20 years without interruption, permission, secrecy or force, then such route can be presumed to be a dedicated highway, a public right of way.

The classification of the highway will depend on how the route has bee used by the public, for example with vehicles on foot or on horseback.

It is possible to stop the dedication of a highway, if during the 20 year period you stop the public rights being established by erecting a notice on the land. This notice must be visible to users of the route and state that there is no intention to dedicate the route as a highway. The problem with this
though is that notices can be removed or become illegible due to graffiti, or confusion may arise if notices are placed next to “public footpath” notices.

Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 can provide further protection. You can lodge with the appropriate council (1) a map of the land on a scale of not less than 6 inches to 1 mile, and (2) a statement indicating what ways (if any) over the land you admit to have
been dedicated as highways.

Within 10 years of lodging the plan, and every subsequent 10 years, you must provide a statutory declaration that no additional way (other than specifically indicated in the declaration) has been dedicated as a highway since the date that the map was lodged or since the date of the last declaration.

Section 31 (6) however will not help where an individual is claiming a private right of way by prescription nor will it void rights that have been presumed dedicated by the 20 year use already.

Despite this, Section 31(6) is a helpful mechanism to protect future rights of way and would be a worthwhile farming management exercise and I would be happy to help in this regard.