New buildings and public rights of ways

What to Expect

Rights of way are an important factor when considering any building work. Any work should not pose a hazard to path users or reduce the width of path that had been previously available. If it is necessary to temporarily divert a path then this has to be done legally by us. For long term closures we will ask for an alternative route to be made available to our specification by the developer.

Who is Responsible?

The Local Planning Authority, which is either your District or Borough Council, must consider the effect that the proposed development would have on the public right of way. If the proposed development is near a public right of way then the Planning Authority should consult with the Countryside Access Group.

For Landowners

National and local planning policies strongly support the protection and enhancement of the public rights of way network, and you will be expected to justify any effect your proposed development might have on it. Whilst they can be diverted or, exceptionally, stopped up to enable development to take place, this requires a legal order in addition to any planning consent that may be required. The Planning Authority must advertise the application separately from other planning applications.

What if the path runs alongside the proposed development?

The effect of the proposed development on the path will still be a material consideration so far as the Planning Authority is concerned. You should try to minimise any adverse effect, such as overshadowing, that the development might have on the path. Before starting to prepare plans, you should check with us where the legal boundaries of the path are. Like roads, public paths often have verges on either side, and even though the land may belong to you, if it forms part of the path, you will not be allowed to build on it. You may also require planning permission if you change the type and height of the fence adjacent to the right of way.

Does planning consent give me the right to stop up or divert the path?

No. The public right of way must be diverted or extinguished by a legal order before the development commences. This is an entirely separate process, which can take several months to complete.

What about access to the proposed development?

Planning consent does not authorise use of a public footpath or bridleway for vehicular access. It is a criminal offence to drive a vehicle over a public footpath or bridleway without a private vehicular right of access or easement, or the permission of the landowner over which the public right of way runs.

If your existing access runs over a public right of way and the proposed development would materially increase traffic, you should check with your solicitor that you would not be exceeding your rights. This will be a material planning consideration.

If you intend to improve the surface as part of the development, in addition to planning consent you will need our consent to ensure that the new surface will be suitable for the public right of way.

If you intend to create a new access over a public right of way, you must first obtain consent from the owner of the land over which the path runs and check with us as we also have an interest in the surface of the route.

How do I apply to effect a right of way?

You should apply to your district or borough council for an order under the Town and Country Planning Act. You will be expected to pay the council's administrative costs and the cost of advertising the order in the local paper. In the case of a diversion, you will also be expected to undertake any works that is considered necessary to bring the new path into a fit state for use. If objections are received which cannot be resolved, the order has to be submitted to the Secretary of State for decision. The order must be confirmed before the development is completed, or it will fail.

If you require a temporary diversion or closure - for example to lay pipes or cables, we require at least 8 weeks notice and you will be expected to pay the Council's administrative costs and the cost of advertising the order in the local paper. A previously agreed alternative path must be made available.

What Happens Next?

If you are reporting a problem concerning a right of way and new building work your report will be allocated to the relevant Countryside Access Officer who may need to visit the site. We will probably be aware of the development already, but we will contact the relevant planning authority within 2 weeks or if appropriate take the matter up with the developer directly.

Use our online form if you need to report a problem. You can also make an enquiry about a rights of way issue.

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