Frequently asked questions on rights of way

Page contents

1. Is there a Public Right of Way across a particular piece of land?

You can search for the existence of public rights of way on the Council's Interactive Map. Please note that there may be rights that have not yet been recorded and therefore the Interactive Map cannot be taken as a legal record. For a legal search the paper copy of the Definitive Map and Statement needs to be checked, as well as our records to see whether any claims for additional rights have been received.

2. Where can I see a copy of the Definitive Map and Statement (Legal Record of Rights of Way)?

The complete set can be seen by appointment at the County Council's offices at Merrow Complex (telephone 0300 200 1003) or at the Surrey History Centre. Epsom and Ewell, Reigate and Banstead, Mole Valley and Tandridge sheets can be seen in the Countryside Access team office in Consort House, Redhill. The District and Borough Councils and Parish Councils also hold copies of their relevant areas for viewing purposes only.

3. Can I move or stop up a public right of way on my land?

The Council has a duty to keep public rights of way open and available. However, in certain circumstances a legal order can be made to move or stop up a right of way. Each diversion or stopping up must meet with strict legal criteria as well as the Council's own policies. If these criteria are met we may make an order which must then go through a statutory consultation process. The applicant will be required to meet the costs of making an order (currently estimated at £3000) and, in the case of a diversion, must also undertake any works which we consider to be necessary in order to bring the new route up to a standard that is suitable for public use.

4. Can I apply for a temporary closure to carry out works?

The Council has powers to make Temporary Closure Orders for certain reasons, for example to allow works to be carried out either along or beside a route which may endanger the public. Temporary Closure Orders cost in the region of £1,800 and are normally for a period of up to 6 months. If you wish to apply for a Temporary Closure Order please make an enquiry.

The Council also has powers to make Temporary Closure Notices to allow essential works to be carried out. Temporary Closure Notices cost £553 and are for a period of up to 5 (consecutive) days. If you wish to apply for a Temporary Closure Notice, please use our on-line Temporary Closure Form.

Widths of paths vary considerably. It is important to check the width with us particularly if you are planning to carry out works beside a path, such as the erection of a fence. Please contact us by completing a rights of way enquiry form.

6. Where can I find a list of BOATs (Byways Open to All Traffic) also known as Green Lanes?

A list of BOATs can either be downloaded by following the link at the bottom of the Vehicles and Rights of Way page or requested from Countryside Access. The list also includes information about those routes that currently have Traffic Regulation Orders on them.

7. I have been using a route and a fence has just gone up obstructing it, or notices have gone up saying no access, or the landowner has told me I can't use it. What can I do?

If the route is an existing right of way then the landowner will be committing an offence and we can seek removal of any obstructions. If the route does not already exist on the Definitive Rights of Way Map and Statement you may be able to claim a right after using a route for 20 years, or in less some circumstances. Any claim will need to be investigated to establish whether rights have been acquired.

8. How can I prevent the public acquiring additional rights of way on my land?

You can make a Highways Declaration and a Highways Statement with the Council, which will prevent additional rights being acquired on your land from the date on which they are made. This needs to be renewed every twenty years. It will not extinguish rights that may have already been obtained. You can obtain further information and a template application form from our Highways Act and Commons Act deposits page.

9. I have seen a Public Notice on site and would like a copy of it.

Most of our Public Notices (except the short-term closures) and a copy of the relevant plan can be found on the rights of way pages. If you would like a copy of the legal order a notice refers to there is a charge of £4.

10. Where are the Countryside Access Land sites in Surrey? (sometimes known as Right to Roam sites).

Maps showing the extent of Access Land can be found on Natural England's website.

11. Can I ride a bicycle on a Public Footpath?

There is no public right to cycle on a Public Footpath however, there are some cycle tracks or permissive routes where cycling is allowed; these will generally be signed on site. You can ride a bicycle on Public Bridleways, BOATs (Byways Open to All Traffic) and Restricted Byways.

12. Should dogs be kept on leads on a public path?

Dogs don't normally have to be on leads but they must be kept under close control. Please take note of any byelaw notices relating to dogs on site.

13. What do I do if there are livestock in a field with a public path?

Proceed with caution and try to avoid getting between cows and their calves. Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you. Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd. Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep. Don't hang onto your dog if you are threatened by cattle, let it go as the cattle will chase the dog. Don't put yourself at risk, find another way round the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible. Don't panic or run, most cattle will stop before they reach you, if they follow just walk on quietly. Guidance is available from the Health and Safety Executive on keeping livestock in areas with public access.

14. Can I clear overgrown vegetation myself on a Public Right of Way?

Under common law, a member of the public is entitled to 'abate a nuisance'. This can mean that if your way is blocked by something that constitutes a legal nuisance, such as overgrown vegetation, you are within your rights to remove it or cut it back sufficiently to allow you to pass. It is important to recognise however, that this right does not extend to carrying out more extensive work or going out with the express intention of carrying out the work. If in doubt, please report the issue to us.

15. Dedication of public rights of way

The upgrading to include additional user rights on an existing route, or the provision of new paths, can be extremely useful in improving connectivity of the public rights of way network. The simplest and cheapest way to create either new or additional public rights of way is for a landowner(s) to dedicate those rights. Under Section 25 of the Highways Act 1980 the County Council can enter into an agreement with the freeholder of the land to dedicate a footpath or bridleway within its area. The way may then become maintainable at public expense. The landowner can determine what the status will be i.e. who can use the route, for example pedestrians only, or pedestrians and/or cyclists and horse riders. The dedication will be for the public at large and not just for example, local inhabitants. It will also be for all time and not just for a limited period. The County Council may pay a landowner's reasonable legal expenses associated with the dedication agreement.

The County Council would need to ensure that the proposed route(s) is to an acceptable standard or agree what works are needed and who should carry them out. Generally a new footpath should be 2.0 metres wide and a bridleway 4.0 metres wide. Once a route has been dedicated, it would be signposted and appear on Surrey's Definitive Map and Statement and other Ordnance Survey maps.

In addition to the above, information can be found under the rights of way web pages. If you cannot find the information you are looking for or require further details please call us on 0300 200 1003 or complete the online enquiry form.

Files available to download

Subscribe to our newsletters for latest news and events.