What to expect
On a footpath
Stiles should be safe and easy for a walker to use. The steps and frame / handhold should be firm, reasonably level and not be too high. There should be no hazards (e.g. electric fencing, barbed wire) on the stile.
Gates should swing freely and not need excessive force to open. The "pen" area of a kissing gate should allow an adult walker to easily pass through whilst operating the gate. The ground underfoot at the gate should be safe to pass through. There should be no hazards.
On a bridleway
Field and bridlegates (sometimes called hunting gates) must be safe and easy for both walkers and riders to use. Latches must be easy to operate and the gate should not require excessive force to open. Self-closing mechanisms should not slam the gate shut. The ground underfoot at the gate should be safe to pass through, there should be no hazards.
Who is responsible?
In most cases, stiles and gates are the responsibility of the landowner or occupier to keep in good order for public use. We can assist landowners in repairing out of repair stiles and gates by prior agreement (see the For Landowners section below).
Dogs and stiles
Landowners are not required to make stiles accessible to dogs, and may place netting across the stile frame to help keep their livestock in. Sometimes a landowner might provide a dog gate or latch beside or under the stile; however, this is entirely at the landowner's discretion.
The vast majority of stiles and gates are the landowner or occupier's responsibility to keep in good order, however, we encourage landowners to remove redundant stiles or gates. We also encourage landowners to improve access for the less mobile and may be able to assist landowners in replacing authorised stiles with gates. We will supply a basic stile or gate kit for a landowner to use in the repair of an existing authorised stile or gate; or if agreed in advance a 25% contribution to reasonable repair costs.
Ideally, most gates should be able to open out both ways, but where this is not possible a turning area should be provided on the side the gate opens.
Only replacement stiles and gates are permitted, except when managing livestock for agriculture or forestry. Landowners need to obtain a licence for any new gates, and there may be conditions attached. Legislation does not allow for new stiles or gates on the grounds of security and privacy.
We can erect barriers for public safety reasons (e.g. stumps to stop unlawful vehicle nuisance).
What happens next?
When reporting a gate or stile with a defect, your report will be forwarded to the area Countryside Access Officer; they may need to inspect the site, and may have to trace and contact the landowner or occupier to require repairs. It often takes 4 – 6 weeks to get a stile or gate repaired.
If the repairs are not carried out within a reasonable timescale, enforcement action may be required, which may take longer.
Use our online form if you need to report a problem. You can also make an enquiry about a rights of way issue.