Making an application to modify the Definitive Map and Statement

What is the Definitive Map and Statement and how can it be modified?

The Definitive Map and Statement for Surrey is the legal record of the location, status and particulars of public rights of way within the County. It provides conclusive evidence in law of the existence and route of the public rights of way shown on it, but without prejudice to the existence of other unrecorded rights. The map and statement can be modified, if evidence can be found to show that it is in error. There may be evidence to show that a right of way shown on the map and statement is not a public right of way, or it is shown incorrectly – as a footpath rather than a bridleway, for example. Or it may be alleged that a public right of way exists that should be added to the map. Where the council is satisfied that the evidence supports a change, a Map Modification Order may be made to modify the map and/or statement to reflect that evidence. The process is designed to make changes to the Definitive Map where the evidence supports it. It is not a means by which landowners can fix the status quo, or show that no changes should be made. If you want to know more, see the guidance note on Legal Record of Rights of Way.

Anyone can apply to the council for a Map Modification Order by following the procedure set out below. It is currently the policy of Surrey County Council only to investigate alleged rights of way where the applicant complies with this procedure.

How do I apply for a Map Modification Order?

Applications for map modification orders are often referred to as 'Schedule 14 applications' because the form in which the application is made, and the procedure which must be followed, is prescribed in Section 53 and Schedule 14 and 15 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There are three stages to making a successful application, all of which must be correctly completed for the application to be validly made.

Firstly, you must complete an application form (Form A) and submit it to the County Council together with a map showing the route, preferably based on the 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, and any supporting documentary evidence and completed public user evidence forms.

Documentary evidence might include:

  • Inclosure Awards and maps
  • Tithe Awards and maps
  • Parish Council minutes
  • Old maps
  • Title deeds

New public rights arise under a process called 'presumed dedication' either through a statutory process after 20 years of use under the Highways Act 1980, or at Common Law. The distinction between the two is simply explained in section 5 of the Planning Inspectorate consistency guidelines PDF.

If an application is based on user evidence this must be gathered and submitted on standard Surrey County Council public way evidence forms. Each form should be completed by one claimant alone and refer to a single route. Each claimant should also mark the route they have been using on a map, showing the location of any gates, obstructions or notices. Additional letters or petitions of support may also be submitted, but these should be supplementary to the evidence forms, not in place of them.

Most new rights are created through statutory presumed dedication under Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980. This states that where the public have used a way 'as of right' and without interruption for a period of 20 years, then in the absence of evidence to the contrary the way is presumed to have been dedicated as a public right of way. This is usually evidenced in the first instance by a number of claimants completing public way evidence forms. It is not necessary for every claimant to have used the path for twenty years, but their evidence, taken together, must show twenty years unbroken use. The use must have been by the public at large and not by employees of the landowner or visitors to the landowner or his tenants. There is no fixed number of forms, which should be submitted but any applicant should aim to collect as many as possible. A number of these users will also be interviewed to obtain additional details and to iron out any inconsistencies. Please note that this evidence will be made available for public inspection.

Secondly, you must serve a notice on every owner and occupier of land affected by the application. If you are unable to trace the owner or occupier of the land, we may exempt you from this requirement and agree to you posting a notice on the land instead. We would normally agree to this if you can show that you have made every reasonable effort to trace the owner and occupier. Details of landownership can normally be obtained from the Land Registry.

Finally, before we can deal with the application, you must submit a signed and dated 'Certificate of Service of Notice of Application', listing the names and addresses of all the people you have served notice on.

Once received, every application is recorded on our Register of definitive map modification order applications, which can be viewed on this website or at the Countryside Legal team office at County Hall, Kingston.

What happens when an application is received?

Where an application is made as described above, the Council must decide whether or not to make an order within 1 year of receipt of the application. Each application is dealt with as soon as possible in line with our Rights of Way Priority Statement.

As part of our investigation we ask the affected landowner(s) for their views and invite them to produce any evidence that may be relevant to the application. This might include steps the landowner has taken to prevent the public using the route, by challenging their use in person or by erecting notices or periodically locking gates. It is sometimes the case that the affected landowner does not object to the claim.

We also consult the Parish and District Councils and with various interest and user groups such as the Ramblers Association and British Horse Society.

Finally, we carry out any additional research which is required. Once we are satisfied that all of the available evidence has been considered, a report is submitted to the relevant County Council Local Committee, who decide whether an order to modify the map should be made or not. The committee decision is made only on the basis of relevant evidence; issues such as privacy, amenity or convenience are not legally relevant.

The Order making process

There are a number of possible outcomes, depending on what the committee decides:

If we decide not to make an order the applicant has 28 days from our notice of decision to appeal to the Secretary of State.

If we decide to make an order it is advertised in the local newspaper and by notice on site and the local councils, the landowner and user groups are also notified. There are then 42 days for people to object to the order if they wish.

After the 42 days have elapsed, if there are no objections we confirm the order. If there are objections, the order is sent to the Planning Inspectorate Secretary of State who appoints an independent Inspector to consider the evidence, either by written representations or by holding a Public Hearing or Inquiry.

When an order is confirmed, either by the Council or by the Secretary of State, it will be publicised as in (2). There is then a period of 42 days during which the validity of the order can be challenged in the High Court on the grounds that it was made or confirmed outside the powers of the Act or that the Act has not been complied with. The High Court may quash the order if is satisfied that this is the case.

Only once the Order is confirmed can the definitive map be changed.

More detailed information about this process can be found on the Natural England website at:

NE112 - A guide to definitive maps and changes to public rights of way - 2008 Revision

Further information (including the relevant Schedule 14 application forms) about the above claims procedure can be obtained by contacting us on 0300 200 1003 or submit a request using our enquiry form.