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Most frequently asked questions
Other frequently asked questions
Please note that IPROW is a membership organisation and does not have the resources to respond to queries from the public. We hope you find answers below and if not, direct you to your local authority rights of way officer or an independent consultant for further advice.
N.B. The answers here apply in England, most in Wales, and few in Scotland. Differences in legislation between the countries are not highlighted.
- What is a public right of way?
- What are the differences between the different types of public right of way?
- What are 'green lanes'?
- What is a permissive path?
- What can I do on a right of way?
- What offence is committed if a horse rider uses a footpath?
- On what types of routes do I have a right to ride my bike?
- In the countryside, where can I ...?
- What can be done about motorbikes riding on footpaths and bridleways?
- Should my dog be on a lead whilst using a public right of way?
- Is the fouling of public paths by dogs an offence?
- Do I have a right to take a powered wheelchair on a public footpath or bridleway?
- How wide is a right of way?
- Where can I get more information on rights of way?
- How can I get involved in public rights of way work?
- Where could I read more about rights of way?
- What are highway authorities?
- Can I get a map of all the public rights of way in my area?
- Who is responsible for maintaining public rights of way?
- What can I do about an obstruction on a public right of way?
- I am concerned about anti-social behaviour on a path. What can be done about it?
- A path I use is very overgrown. What can be done about it?
Private Rights and Easements
- What is the difference between a private right of way and a public right of way?
- What is a private right of way or an easement?
- If a private right of way exists across our land, does this mean that a public right of way cannot exist along the same line?
Definitive Map — Legal Records
- What is a definitive map?
- What is a definitive statement?
- How can I claim a public right of way that is not shown on the definitive map when I believe it should be?
- What is a modification order?
- Is it true that a public right of way ceases to exist if it is not used for 20 years?
- What is the minimum width of a gate on a bridleway?
- I am buying some property. How can I find out if there are any public rights of way over the land?
- I am buying some property and apparently there's a public right of way over it, what does this mean?
- Can a public right of way be changed, and if so how do I go about getting a change made?
- I've got a problem with a path on my land - can I have it closed or moved?
- Is it possible to close a path temporarily?
- What are Traffic Regulation Orders?
- What is 'access land'?
- What is the CROW Act?
- I am visiting an area away from where I live. How can I find out about rights of way there?
- What is a ROWIP?
- What are Local Access Forums?
- How are public rights of way recorded in Northern Ireland?
- How are public rights of way recorded in Scotland?
What is a public right of way?
It is not, strictly speaking, a path, but a right possessed by the public, to pass along linear routes over land at all times. Although the land may be owned by a private individual, the public may still gain access across that land along a specific route. The mode of transport allowed differs according to what type of public right of way it is. Public rights of way are all highways in law, but the term "public rights of way" is generally used to cover more minor highways.
What are the differences between the different types of public right of way?
The following types exist:
- Footpaths: on which there is a right of way on foot.
- Bridleways: on which there is a right of way on foot, on horseback and leading a horse, with an additional right for bicyclists provided that they give way to other users; in some cases also with a right to lead or drive animals.
- Roads Used as Public Paths (RUPPs, superseded term): highways mainly used by the public for the purposes that footpaths or bridleways are used, but which may or may not carry vehicular rights. In some parts of the country RUPPs were reclassified individually as byway, bridleway or footpath and those remaining in 2006 became restricted byways.
- Restricted Byways: a new category created by CROWA2000 with rights for all traffic except mechanically propelled vehicles. Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs): highways that are mainly used for the purposes that footpaths and bridleways are used, but on which there is a right of way for all traffic.
- Cycle Tracks: paths with a right of way for all types of pedal cycles (not mopeds), including electrically-assisted cycles, with or without a right of access on foot. (However, cycle ways are not a type of right of way that have to be shown on a definitive map - see FAQ about definitive maps).
What are 'green lanes'?
This term has no legal meaning, but is used as a physical description of lanes that are vegetated underfoot or enclosed by hedges hence the 'green'. The term is also commonly used by Councils for unimproved unclassified roads, which are recorded on the List of Streets and adoption records. There are often similar rights on these as on BOATs. Many are now shown on Ordnance Survey Explorer maps with green dots, and on Landranger maps with red dots. However, any individual 'green lane' might be a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway, byway or road.
What is a permissive path?
A permissive path is one which is used by permission of the landowner and not by right. Permission can be removed or suspended and the route or level of permitted use (i.e. whether on foot, horse or vehicle) may be changed at the wish of the landowner.
Permissive paths may add valued links to the rights of way network but are more difficult to take into account when route planning, particularly for visitors, as they may be known only to local people, may change or be seasonal and are temporary in nature, even if long-term. Some long-term permissive paths are shown on Ordnance Survey maps.
Some permissive paths arise from public funding through environmental management schemes or other grants.
There is no legal protection to users of a permissive path and no requirement on the landowner to maintain it.
What can I do on a right of way?
This depends on the status of the route in question (see above), but in general terms you are allowed to pass and re-pass as a genuine traveller, and undertake closely allied activities such as stopping to rest or look at views. Wherever there is a right of way on foot there is also a right to have certain accompaniments, such as a pram or pushchair where accessible. You have no right to undertake unrelated activities such as metal-detecting or flying model aircraft. Certain organized events such as races may also not be allowed, or may require permission. Contact the Public Rights of Way Officer of your local authority for further details.
Where can I get more information on rights of way?
Publications of Natural England and Countryside Council for Wales may provide more detailed information on certain aspects. For the diversion, creation or extinguishment ("stopping-up") of a public right of way, or the official recording of rights of way (definitive map modification orders) in England, the booklet, "A guide to definitive maps and changes to public rights of way" (CA 142), is available as a download from Natural England
The book "Rights of Way - A Guide to Law & Practice" by John Riddall and John Trevelyan is recommended as a guide to the law in England and Wales. Your local highway authority may be able to help or direct you to specialist advice.
In the countryside, where can I ........
- On all rights of way, that is: on footpaths, bridleways, some cycle tracks, RUPPs/restricted byways, byways open to all traffic and carriageways (unless prohibited);
- On land designated as Open Country and not subject to local restrictions or exemption. This is shown on Ordnance Survey maps from 2005 onwards (depending on area) but you should check for restrictions http://www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk/;
- Permissive paths and various open spaces such as village greens, parks and access land;
- Some nature reserves, woodlands and National Trust land are also open to walkers, and these are often shown on Ordnance Survey maps.
Ride my horse?
- On bridleways, RUPPs/restricted byways and byways open to all traffic. In addition, carriageways (unless prohibited), permissive bridleways and toll bridleways.
Ride my bike?
- On bridleways, cycle tracks, RUPPs/restricted byways, byways open to all traffic and some other minor highways. Also on permissive cycle paths.
Drive my horse-drawn carriage?
- On restricted byways, byways open to all traffic and carriageways (unless prohibited).
Drive my 4X4 or ride my motorbike?
- On byways open to all traffic and carriageways (unless prohibited). Some restricted byways may have full vehicular rights and be under review as byways open to all traffic. Remember any that traffic legislation that applies to using a vehicle on a public road equally applies to the use of vehicles on unimproved roads or byways.
What are highway authorities?
These are Councils - either County Councils or Unitary Authorities, not second-tier Councils (sometimes also called district councils). They are responsible for the management and protection of all public highways in their areas except those managed at a national level such as motorways and trunk roads. 'Public highways' includes not only the road network but also pavements and public rights of way. Sometimes a highway authority may delegate the management of its highways, or some of its highways, to another local authority.
Can I get a map of all the public rights of way in my area?
Your local highway authority should be able to provide a copy of a small portion of its definitive map, but they may make a charge. Ordnance Survey maps that show public rights of way are also available from bookshops and outdoor equipment shops, and the information about the location of public rights of way on these is obtained from highway authorities. Be aware that there may have been changes to the network since publication of the OS map, but these should be well waymarked.
There is a problem on a right of way near me, whom should I contact?
Highway authorities (may be county council or unitary authority) are responsible for maintaining and protecting public rights of way.
If you have a question about the location or status of rights of way, about where you can walk or ride, about maintenance or obstructions, about whether a right exists or not - all these questions should be addressed to a rights of way officer at your highway authority.
If you do not know how to contact your highway authority, DirectGOV is an index of councils to help you.
If you want to know more about rights of way, many local authorities have good information on their websites. Search for rights of way under the A to Z of services.
Who is responsible for maintaining public rights of way?
Although, rarely, some paths are entirely privately maintainable, maintenance responsibilities are generally divided between highway authorities, landowners and occupiers as follows:
Highway authorities: surfaces (including natural ground vegetation), steps, handrails; some barriers, drains, most bridges and culverts; stepping stones, fords, signposts and waymarks.
Landowners: stiles and gates (25% of reasonable costs to be contributed by highway authorities for authorised structures). Occupiers: restoration after ploughing, control of crops, and repair of damage caused by their vehicles on footpaths and bridleways. Landowners or occupiers: control of overhanging vegetation, maintenance of some drains, bridges and culverts.
What can I do about an obstruction on a public right of way?
Report it to the Public Rights of Way Officer of the highway authority for the area, giving details of the location and obstruction, preferably with a grid reference, to allow the Officer to locate it.
If you are not satisfied with the response of the highway authority's Rights of Way Officer, the normal chain of increasing pressure is highway authority, parish council, county/unitary councillor with portfolio for rights of way, MP, highway authority's complaints procedure, Ombudsman, magistrates' court, county court, high court.
The highway authority has a duty to assert and protect the public right but may legitimately have priorities in place as it is unlikely to have resources to enforce all rights of way immediately and other routes may have higher priority. There may also be circumstances, such as an agreed timescale for action, of which you are unaware. You may need evidence of the severity of the effect of the obstruction on the public in order to reasonably escalate it in priorities.
To go to the Ombudsman you may need to demonstrate that you have already taken reasonable action and provide evidence that users are being compromised by the situation.
Anyone may serve a Highways Act 1980 Section 130A notice on the authority. The notice requires the authority to take action and may be pursued in court if necessary.
I am concerned about anti-social behaviour on a path. What can be done about it?
This is initially a matter for the Police, as the people are really the problem rather than the path. You should also report the problem to the highway authority as sometimes matters can be helped by improving visibility and lighting. However in some circumstances where the problems are very severe and there is evidence that the path is a factor in the commission of serious crimes it may be possible to resolve the problem by officially closing or moving the path. For further details contact the Public Rights of Way Officer at your local highway authority.
A path I use is very overgrown. What can be done about it?
Councils are generally responsible for vegetation growing on the surfaces of paths, although not that overhanging from the sides. Most have an annual cutting programme for countryside paths, but sometimes have missed out the odd path. Report it to the local Public Rights of Way Officer, preferably giving a grid reference.
Do I have a right to take a powered wheelchair on a public footpath or bridleway?
There is no right in law, but in practice most landowners will not object to their use on accessible paths.
What is the difference between a private right of way and a public right of way?
A private right of way is one limited to an individual or group, and usually connected with land holdings, when it may also be called an easement. It allows landowners and occupiers to get access to their land across land that is not in their own ownership. A public right of way may be used by everyone. The two often coincide; such as on farm access roads, when holders of the private right must not infringe the public right. Public rights of way officers do not deal with private rights unless there is some conflict with a public right, and otherwise queries about private rights should be addressed to a solicitor as it is a private issue rather than public issue.
What is a private right of way or an easement?
Private rights of way and easements are very different from public rights of way and need specialist legal advice.
If a private right of way exists across our land, does this mean that a public right of way cannot exist along the same line?
The existence of a private right of way does not automatically or usually preclude the existence of a public right of way, so the short answer is "no"; there are many examples of routes where private rights of way and public rights of way co-exist. In certain circumstances the existence of a private right of way might make it harder (but not impossible) for public rights to arise, but these circumstances are fairly rare.
What is a definitive map?
This is an official map of public rights of way maintained by each highway authority (County Council or Unitary Authority) for its area. Together with the definitive statement (see below) it provides conclusive legal evidence of the existence of each public right of way that it shows, relating to a specific date (the relevant date). Councils use these maps as a legal reference for searches, maintenance and enforcement of legislation. There is now a requirement for all highway authorities in England and Wales to produce, keep, and keep under review a definitive map and statement. The only exception now is for the area that prior to 1965 was the London County Council area; very broadly this area is now covered by Inner London Boroughs.
Historically, there were other areas where there was no requirement to produce a definitive map, work is on-going to produce maps for these previously excluded areas. All legally existing public footpaths, public bridleways and byways open to all traffic should be shown on definitive maps, but there is still a lot of work to do to make sure that all maps are complete, accurate and up to date.
What is a definitive statement?
This is a schedule (description) or collection of schedules of public rights of way that complements the definitive map describing the position of the rights of way shown on the definitive map, usually providing details of restrictions or limitations on the public's rights. These may include a maximum width, the presence of stiles or gates, or a right to plough the path. It is conclusive in law as to the particulars given.
How can I claim a public right of way that is not shown on the definitive map when I believe it should be?
Whilst the definitive map and statement are conclusive evidence of what they show, it does not follow that a route that is not shown on them is not a public right of way. Anyone may claim a public right of way by providing evidence and making application to the relevant highway authority. The process takes several months or, in some cases, years, but is worth pursuing in order to protect rights that could otherwise be lost. Contact the relevant highway authority for further information.
What is a modification order?
The definitive map and statement are not always complete, as historic rights of way may have been omitted, and new rights of way can be created. These may be added only by a formal process known as a modification order, which modifies the definitive map and statement. It is also possible for errors to exist on the definitive map and statement, and to remove rights that are wrongly recorded or change the way they are recorded also requires a modification order. Councils sometimes initiate such orders when they come across evidence that a change is needed. However, the public may apply for an order if they have gathered their own evidence. This often includes evidence of use of a route, and copies of historic maps and documents.
I am in the process of buying some property. How can I find out if there are any public rights of way over the land?
Your solicitor can do an official search for public rights of way shown on the definitive map and statement through the Land Charges system, although they may not do this unless you ask, as it is optional and incurs an extra charge. It is also possible for anyone to arrange to view the definitive map of public rights of way for a locality at the highway authority main offices and in some cases at libraries and local council offices. However, because not all public rights of way that exist are shown on the definitive map and statement, if you suspect that the public are using the land even though there appears to be no public right of way recorded over it you should take specialist advice and make further enquiries.
I am buying some property and apparently there's a public right of way over it, what does this mean?
The public have a right to pass along the route of the path at all times. The mode of transport differs according to the type or status of public right of way. Legislation limits what landowners may do on public paths. For further information contact your local Public Rights of Way Officer.
Can a public right of way be changed, and if so how do I go about getting a change made?
If the public right of way is a bridleway or footpath it may be possible to have it diverted under the Highways Act 1980. You will need to meet the legal criteria in the Act. You should approach your local council - district council or county council in a two-tier area - unitary or metropolitan council in other areas and seek advice from the rights of way officer.
If the right of way has to be moved because of development for which planning consent has been given, then the authority which gave the consent is able to make an order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 - this is a separate process to obtaining planning consent and it is very important to note that the granting of planning consent for development that affects a public right of way does not automatically mean that the affected right of way will be stopped up or diverted to accommodate the development.
If the right of way is subject to public vehicular rights (e.g. it is a byway) you will need to talk to the highway authority about the possibility of an application to the Magistrates' Court. The booklet "A guide to definitive maps and changes to public rights of way" CA142 available free from Natural England on their website at http://www.countryside.gov.uk/Publications/articles/Publication_tcm2-4326.asp) will tell you more about the legislation, the process and the criteria you need to fulfil.
I've got a problem with a path on my land - can I have it closed or moved?
If the path is officially recorded, you may apply for an extinguishment or diversion order, although certain criteria must be met, and the public are allowed opportunity to object. The process normally incurs re-chargeable costs that usually amount to over 1,000 pounds. If the path is not officially recorded it may be necessary to determine what if any public rights exist over it before an authority is able to decide whether or not it can be extinguished or diverted. For further details contact the Public Rights of Way Officer at your local highway authority.
Is it possible to close a path temporarily?
Local authorities have a power to do this, but only for certain reasons, and to do this they must first make an order. If it is done for a third party the costs are usually re-charged, which can be over Ãƒâ€šÃ‚£1,000 due to mandatory newspaper advertisements (varies by area).
What are Traffic Regulation Orders?
Often called 'TROs', these are orders applied by local authorities to restrict the use of rights of way to certain traffic, excluding other types. They can be temporary or permanent, and can be applied for various purposes. Contravention of such orders is an offence.
Is it true that a public right of way ceases to exist if it is not used for 20 years?
No - this is a fallacy, except in Scotland. Elsewhere in the UK public rights of way continue to exist indefinitely unless the land they cross is destroyed (for example by coastal erosion), or extinguished by official order. However, the opposite is true, as a public right of way can be acquired in certain circumstances where there was none previously if a route is used for 20 years.
What is the minimum width of a gate on a bridleway?
The Highways Act 1980 states that the minimum passable width must be five feet (1.525 metres).
What offence is committed if a horse rider uses a footpath?
This is not of itself an offence unless horse riding is prohibited by a traffic regulation order or a bylaw but it may be a civil wrong ('tort') against the owner of the land, so a horse rider may be committing trespass. It is possible that higher rights may exist that have not yet been recorded, and if so it would not constitute trespass. However, if a horse rider caused significant damage to a path they may have committed an offence of criminal damage, and a tort against the highway authority. If the horse riding affected the rights of legitimate users of the footpath the rider may also be guilty of causing a public nuisance.
On what types of routes do I have a right to ride my bike?
On all the categories of public rights of way except footpaths. It is not an offence to ride on a footpath, but may be a trespass against the landowner. However, it is an offence to ride on a pavement beside a carriageway and also where a traffic regulation order or a bylaw is in place to prohibit cycling.
What can be done about motorbikes riding on footpaths and bridleways?
This is a criminal offence if done without lawful authority, which may be the landowner's permission, and even with permission it can still be an offence if motorbikes are ridden inconsiderately or cause damage. The legislation is enforceable by the Police as for other road traffic offences. It is sometimes possible to provide physical barriers that will prevent users of motorbikes gaining access to footpaths, but this is usually less effective on other routes. Ultimately, the Police have powers to confiscate motorbikes and prosecute riders where an offence has been committed.
Should my dog be on a lead whilst using a public right of way?
Not necessarily, as a dog does not have to be on a lead unless a bylaw or order is in force, despite notices often erected by landowners. However, dogs should remain under close control and on the public right of way, and with some dogs the only way to do this in practice may indeed be to use a lead, particularly if there are sheep present. If your dog were to worry livestock and the landowner or farmer thought your dog was out of control, they would have the right to shoot it.
Is the fouling of public paths by dogs an offence?
This is an offence if a relevant bylaw is in force on the path in question, and in any case it may amount to a common law nuisance. It is also an offence if the local Council has designated the land under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996, although a lot of land types cannot be designated. Dog fouling may also be a civil wrong against the landowner. Even where an offence is not committed it is still good practice to clear up after your dog.
What is 'access land'?
This involves a right of access rather than a right of way, as it relates to area access rather than linear access. It covers land in England and Wales that comes within the categories of mountain, moor, heath, downland and registered common. There is also a category of 'voluntary access land', which includes most of the Forestry Commission's freehold land. Access land is recorded on maps held by Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales, and is shown on Ordnance Survey 'Explorer' maps from 2005. Land managers are allowed to close access land for up to 28 days each year, and for longer periods for certain purposes by agreement with relevant authorities. These are highway authorities or National Park Authorities or Forestry Commission depending on the location. There are rules relating to the use of access land, and for further details please refer to publications by Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales or http://www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk/.
What is the CROW Act?
This is the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000, which includes legislation on access land, public rights of way, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and commons. In terms of rights of way, it brought in numerous changes to the legislation to improve management and address the concerns of landowners. Not all of its provisions are yet in force, as they are gradually being introduced by Government Regulations.
I am visiting an area away from where I live. How can I find out about rights of way there?
Contact the Tourism section of the Council in the area or look at their website. It is also possible to obtain Ordnance Survey maps for any part of the country, although you may have to order them.
What is a ROWIP?
This is short for 'Rights of Way Improvement Plan', and all highway authorities in England and Wales are required by law to produce one by November 2007. ROWIPs will be substantial documents, including a review of the suitability of rights of way networks for current and future needs, and proposals for action. Contact your local Public Rights of Way Officer to find out how this is progressing in your area.
What are Local Access Forums?
The law requires all highway authorities in England and Wales to set up and maintain a Local Access Forum (LAF) for the purpose of improving access to land for the purposes of open-air recreation and the enjoyment of the area. Forums are consulted by local authorities and Government about access issues, and most consist of a variety of path users such as walkers, cyclists, riders and motorists, along with farmers, foresters and estate managers. Various regulations apply, including a requirement to maintain a reasonable balance between people whose interests are predominantly in access and those who are mainly interested in land management. If you would like to find out what your LAF is doing, or would be interested in joining, contact your local highway authority.
How are public rights of way recorded in Northern Ireland?
Every District Council in Northern Ireland has a duty under the Article 3 of the Access to the Countryside (NI) Order 1983 to 'assert, protect and keep open and free from obstruction or encroachment' any public right of way in its area. The District Council may also maintain any right of way if it wishes, although it does not have a duty to do so.
There is no direct equivalent in Northern Ireland of the definitive map and statement that highway authorities in England and Wales are required to maintain to record all the rights of way in their areas. Instead, the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment (NI) has published recommended procedures to enable District Councils to meet their duties under the Access Order. These require District Councils to investigate the history and use of the paths in their areas and formally recognise - or 'assert' - those that are found to be public. Where necessary, this may include seeking a declaration from a court to 'vindicate' or confirm the assertion.
Queries about local rights of way should be directed to the Countryside Officer for the District Council in the area. If you are in Northern Ireland, you may also find it helpful to discuss the matter with your local councillor. A leaflet outlining the ways in which public rights of way can come into existence and the procedures that are followed in asserting rights of way is also available from: the Countryside Access Officer, Environment and Heritage Service, Commonwealth House, Belfast BT1 1GU. Tel (028) 9054 6519.
How are public rights of way recorded in Scotland?
Scotland has a separate legal system to England and Wales, and does not have definitive maps. Hence rights of way are not as comprehensively recorded, but they are gradually being recorded on a national database known as 'CROW' - the Catalogue of Rights of Way. They fall into categories of 'vindicated', 'asserted', 'claimed' and 'other'. Councils (all are unitary authorities in Scotland) have a duty to 'assert, protect, and keep open and free from obstruction or encroachment any public right of way which is wholly or partly within their area'. Most of the law relating to rights of way in Scotland is 'common law' rather than statute law. The information on this site, unless otherwise stated relates to England and Wales. For further details contact the Scottish Rights of Way & Access Society ('ScotWays') at 24 Annandale Street, Edinburgh, EH7 5RA, telephone 0131 5581222, website at www.scotways.com.
How can I get involved in public rights of way work?
Many Councils have set up opportunities for the public to do voluntary work such as practical maintenance work and path surveys. Similar opportunities are provided by other organizations such as National Parks, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and user groups. Historical research is another possibility, although this does require specialist knowledge. All highway authorities now have Local Access Forums to advise on improving access, and it may be possible for you to join one of these, depending on vacancies and your experience.
For those wishing to get involved professionally, voluntary work often provides a good basis, although many jobs will require a recognized qualification such as a diploma or degree in countryside management. For those with a first degree it is now possible to undertake an MSc in Public Rights of Way part-time at Sheffield Hallam University, and this provides a thorough grounding in the subject (See the FAQ on rights of way work as a career).
I want to work in rights of way: what advice can you give?
Public rights of way and access management are central to countryside and urban access, to transport, to recreation and tourism. Their broad influence is reflected by the variety of work in the profession, which involves many organisational, practical and communication skills. As such, the field provides demanding and satisfying careers, with potential for personal and professional development, for new career paths within the profession and continually changing aspects of work.
Jobs in public rights of way come at many levels, from assistant to management and most will be in local government. How jobs and departments are structured varies, so the demands of similar jobs may differ between local authorities. In some small authorities there may be only one or two officers, undertaking a wide range of work, in larger authorities there may be specialists, dealing only with maintenance, enforcement, definitive map (legal work), or promotion of routes. There may also be project posts that include rights of way work, such as for the development of cycle routes or specific needs. Talking to a rights of way officer at county level will give a good idea of what the work entails and areas that may be of particular interest. There are also some jobs with private companies, to which a highway authority's function has been contracted out, or small consultancy firms.
Many jobs will include negotiation, seeking balance between users of a right of way and landowners' needs or between different users. There may be a need to resolve conflict, such as between walkers and mountain bikers or horse-riders and motorcyclists; to find solutions, which may need an innovative approach such as to create access for wheelchairs, horses and pedestrians but not motorcycles, while keeping livestock secure.
The Definitive Map is the legal record of public rights of way, maintained by highway authorities. Definitive Map work may involve research into local history to find out about the use and status of a route over centuries or to resolve dispute over the width or exact line of a right of way. Specific legal processes are needed to change the route or status of rights of way on the Definitive Map. Understanding of legislative requirements and the ability to be precise about detail and procedures are needed.
Some jobs involve much more outdoors work than others, perhaps surveying paths, organising and supervising work tasks or maintenance contractors, or undertaking maintenance work. Some jobs are desk-based with forays into public records offices or occasional site visits. There are solicitors and barristers who specialise in rights of way and information technology opportunities in designing databases, geographic information systems and field data collection.
There are no specific qualifications and requirements vary with posts; many request a degree and a course that has involved countryside management, access management or rights of way modules will be most helpful to a recent graduate. Practical diploma courses provide useful skills for physical jobs in maintenance of rights of way controlling vegetation, building bridges, erecting gates, making steps, laying pitching. Many of the colleges that have diversified from agriculture offer courses in these areas. Voluntary work on rights of way with a local authority, national park, The National Trust or BTCV would be useful experience. Volunteering with user groups can also provide very beneficial training and experience; the different perspective can be invaluable even if later employed in another capacity.
Salaries vary considerably: some start at around £11,000 for new entrants or manual jobs ranging up to management posts at over £35,000. Overall, it is not generally a profession in which to get rich, but it is one that is widely varied, and becoming more varied in response to changing legislation, social development and, as in anything, information technology.
IPROW (The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management) is an excellent way to keep in touch with what is happening in the profession as it includes a quarterly journal (Waymark), discounted rates on IPROW training courses and a job advertisement service. If you are new to the profession, IPROW has an associate category open to people who have not been in the profession long enough to qualify for application as a full member. See Membership.
IPROW offers its own training courses, at all levels from introductory days to specialist subjects at an advanced level. Plas Tan Y Bwlch (Snowdonia National Park study centre) offers a comprehensive introductory course on many aspects of rights of way over a week.
Jobs may be advertised in local and regional newspapers, sometimes national newspapers and through IPROW, however, with the current high costs of newspaper advertising, some authorities may rely on their own websites. The Countryside Job Service offers information on many areas of countryside work and has job advertisements, including rights of way work.
Reduction in funding to local authorities from central government has hit hard in rights of way with the loss of many posts and a high rate of redundancy.
Where can I read more about rights of way?
Waymark - the journal of IPROW (Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management) is available on subscription.
'Rights of Way - A Guide to Law and Practice' by John Riddall and John Trevelyan, published by the Open Spaces Society and the Ramblers.
Byway and Bridleway was the journal of the Byways and Bridleways Trust, PO Box 117, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 5YT or www.bbtrust.org.uk
The Countryside Job Service - http://www.countryside-jobs.com/ offers information on many areas of countryside work and has job advertisements, including rights of way work.
There are many other sources of information such as the Good Practice Guide on this website, and the websites of Natural England, The Planning Inspectorate and many local authorities. Most of the campaigning groups involved with public rights of way also have websites that may provide the specific information that you are looking for.
How can I find an independent consultant undertaking rights of way work?
IPROW has members who undertake consultancy work relating to various aspects of rights of way and public access management. The Institute makes no direct recommendation or endorsement of their work although membership of the organisation does require demonstration of a recognised level of professional expertise and adherence to a code of conduct. Before engaging a consultant, you may wish to satisfy yourself that the person or organisation can meet your requirements, especially in relation to professional indemnity and public liability insurance where appropriate.
How wide is a right of way?
Public rights of way vary a great deal in width, both physically and legally and there is no legal minimum or maximum. In general, they will be wide enough for users to pass but pinch points and sections which are too narrow do exist. The statement associated with the definitive map may have a record of the width. If not then the highway authority may have to undertake research or make a judgement on what width should be available.