22 February 2023

Landowners who allow the public to walk freely over their land are at risk of those routes being dedicated as a public footpath unless preventative measures are taken.

A right of way can be created by the public if a person establishes use over land for a period of 20 years, if done without force, secrecy, or the landowner’s permission. After 20 years of uninterrupted use, under Section 53 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, any member of the public can make an application to formalise a public right of way, known as a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO).

Unwanted visitors can cause a number of issues for landowners, such as leaving gates open allowing livestock to escape, leaving litter behind, or dogs worrying livestock. Preventive measures can include displaying signs, preventing access with fences or obstructions, or verbally challenging users. However, this isn’t always effective.

Under Section 31 (6) of the Highways Act 1980, landowners (or an authorised representative) can deposit a landowner statement to the Local Authority. A single application form, CA16, needs to include the following:

  • A Statement – declaring which public rights of way currently exist over the land (if any), accompanied by a plan outlining the land and its current rights of way;
  • A Declaration – submitted after the statement, to make it clear that the landowner does not intend to dedicate any further public rights of way – this completes the protection.

Once lodged with the Local Authority, a notice of the statement will be published on their website, and landowners will be notified if a member of the public applies for a new public right of way across their land.

This will protect the land for a period of 20 years from the date of the deposit and will therefore need to be renewed every 20 years (or after 10 years if the application was made before 1st October 2013), to confirm that no new rights have been dedicated since the previous deposit.

It is worth noting that this will have no effect on the existing public rights of way already shown on the definitive map, or on applications to record a public right of way by means of 20 years uninterrupted use, if this has been submitted before the statement is deposited by the landowner.

Battens advises its clients to make this application, to protect land from unwanted visitors, even if you don’t currently have any public rights of way or any issues arising.

For more information please contact Beth Norris, Agricultural & Rural Property team, on 01935 811319 or