Definitive map and legalities
Public rights of way law lets us map, amend, close and stop up rights of way in our area.
The law also allows for the public to claim rights of way. Landowners can protect their land from future development of ways.
Making changes to the definitive map
You can apply to register a route that is in public use but does not appear on the definitive map. We can also update the definitive map if a route changes. This could be if a route becomes unfit for purpose or a more common route is claimed. Ways can also be diverted and removed ('stopped up') if required.
The definitive map and statement are the legal record of public rights of way. The record is only definitive on what it contains, not what it omits. Public rights may exist over a route not shown on the map. There may also be further public rights over a recorded route.
If you believe such rights exist there are legal procedures to let us test this. If we find that these rights do exist, we can make a legal order to record these. This is a Definitive Map Modification Order.
We maintain a register of all current Definitive Map Modification Order applications.
Claiming a path
Public rights usually exist if a path has been in continuous use for at least 20 years. This may not be the case if the landowner has ever restricted or prevented access. Paths with public rights are not always shown on the definitive map. This does not mean that a path is not open to the public.
You can apply to register a path on the definitive map. A claim usually needs support from at least 10 path users. At least 5 of these must have used the path for at least 20 years.
You and anyone supporting your claim may have to attend a public inquiry. You may have to give evidence if there are objections to your use of the path. If there is little or no support for your claim then we may take no action to register the path.
If we find that public rights exist then we will add the path to the definitive map. The process can take a long time. Even a simple claim can take a year to complete.
Landowners and rights of way
Landowners can protect themselves against future claims on paths across their land.
You can make a written declaration to the Council. This states you recognise all existing public paths on your land but will not recognise any new public paths. This is a section 31(6) declaration. The maps showing land under these declarations are public documents. You can view these at our offices.