Rights of Way: Rights and Responsibilities
The council's responsibilities include:
- Keeping public rights of way clear of undergrowth
- Strimming and routine maintenance
- Helping farmers and landowners with maintenance of stiles and gates
- Signposting footpaths and bridleways where they leave the metalled road
- Way marking paths to help users find their way
- Maintaining most bridges and culverts
Landowners' responsibilities include:
- Keeping any rights of way on their land clear of overgrowth (e.g. hedge outgrowth across the path)
- Maintaining any stiles and gates which are needed on the path
- Keeping the path free from obstruction - including growing crops
- Not ploughing field edge paths, or any restricted byway or byway
- Reinstating cross-field paths after ploughing etc (in accordance with the Rights of Way Act
Who is liable if a path user is injured?
Owners and occupiers of land crossed by public rights of way are liable for injuries caused by their negligence. For example, if a stile collapsed under a walker, or if a path user was injured by an electric fence placed across a path, then the injured person could claim against the occupier of the land.
The council is responsible for the surface of public rights of way. We could be liable for injuries due to neglect of the surface of the path.
Access for people with mobility impairments
Stiles are not accessible for many people. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 requires us to consider the needs of people with mobility difficulties.
Our policy is called the 'Least Restrictive Approach', which means that any new fence lines should cause as little restriction as possible. We prefer gates to stiles, and where a gate or stile is not needed to control livestock, we would prefer a gap in the fence.
Dogs on public rights of way
Dogs are allowed on public rights of way, but they must be kept under close control at all times. Dogs don't have to be on a lead, but a path user who allows a dog to wander off the right of way becomes a trespasser and owners and occupiers can to ask them to leave the land. If a dog is likely to wander off the line of the path, or to worry livestock, the owners are advised to keep the dog on a lead. The fouling of a path by a dog may be an offence under a bylaw. We attach notices to stiles, gates and fingerposts advising path users to keep their dogs on a lead, or under close control, and it is an offence to allow a dog to foul an urban highway with a speed of 30mph or less.