Have your say on public rights of way

Kirklees Council would like to know what you think of Public Rights of Way in our area. Visit Have your say on public rights of way to find out more and take our survey.

Coronavirus

Coronavirus and public rights of way - Guidance to path users and landowners on using public rights of way while also keeping everyone safe.

Search for a public right of way

Information about individual rights of way. Search for a public right of way

Check if a path is a public right of way

You can check whether a path is on the formal list of claimed paths, or check the priority list of outstanding files.

Alternatively, you can get in contact with highways to check the definitive map and statement which is the legal record of public rights of way.

You can also contact us to propose a route to become a public right of way.

Diversion of paths

To change or stop the route of a path on your land, there is a formal application procedure, criteria to be satisfied, and a charge for the process. There is no guarantee of success. You can get in contact with highways and an officer will discuss the matter with you.

Rights of way improvement plan

Kirklees Council has developed a Rights of way improvement plan (ROWIP) that outlines how the public rights of way network will be managed and improved over the coming years as resources allow, to meet the needs of people who live or work in Kirklees and those who are visiting the area.

Types of public rights of way and usages allowed

You can walk on all public rights of way.

Some public rights of way are also open to horse riders, cyclists or motorists.

There are four types of public rights of way you can use:

  1. Public footpaths - where the public has a right of way on foot and with a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair, pushchair or pram.
  2. Public bridleways - where the public has a right of way on foot, with a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair, pushchair or pram, on horseback or leading a horse, and on a bicycle.
  3. Restricted byways - where the public has a right of way on foot, with a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair, pushchair or pram, on horseback or leading a horse, on a bicycle, and by horse drawn vehicle. Other vehicles may have the right to use a restricted byway.
  4. Byway open to all traffic (BOAT) - where the public has a right of way on foot, with a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair, pushchair or pram, on horseback or leading a horse, on a bicycle, in a motorised or non-motorised vehicle, and driving animals.

As public highways, public rights of way enjoy the same protection (provided by the Highways Act) as 'proper roads'. They also enjoy additional protection provided by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, Countryside Act 1968, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Responsibilities

The council's responsibilities:

  • keeping public rights of way clear of undergrowth which is vegetation growing in the surface of the path;
  • assisting farmers and landowners with maintenance of stiles and gates;
  • signposting public rights of way where they leave the surfaced road;
  • waymarking paths to help users find their way; and
  • maintaining most bridges and culverts

The council, as the highway authority, is responsible for the surface, including natural vegetation (not a crop) growing from it, and for the public right of way being clearly marked and available.

The council will try to resolve issues in a professional and friendly manner. Our legal duty is to protect the rights of the public to use public rights of way.

Landowners responsibilities:

  • keeping public rights of way clear of undergrowth which is vegetation growing in the surface of the path;
  • maintaining any authorised stiles and gates which they need on public rights of way;
  • keeping public rights of way free from obstruction - including growing crops;
  • not ploughing field edge public rights of way, or any Restricted Byway or Byway Open to All Traffic;
  • reinstating cross-field public rights of way after ploughing for example (in accordance with the Rights of Way Act 1990); and
  • applying for a temporary closure if undertaking any work which may affect a public right of way or endanger its users.

A landowner is responsible for keeping public bridleways or byways free from overhanging vegetation, from encroachment or obstruction, from crops, and for ensuring authorised gates and stiles are convenient to use.

Path users responsibilities:

Path users should keep to the public right of way, follow the countryside code and consider other users.

Other responsibilities and enforcement

This guide covers the rights and responsibilities, including enforcement, associated with public rights of way. It explains some of the legislation that applies to public rights of way and how the council applies this legislation to various issues.

Public rights of way are routes that can be used by members of the public for recreation, going to and from school, work and the shops and anywhere else. They range from urban to rural areas.

Public rights of way: A guide to rights and responsibilities

Widths

No specific rule applies to the width of a public right of way. In Kirklees, most public rights of way have a minimum width recorded in the Definitive Map and Statement. The width may also be detailed in a historical document, it may be the distance between two boundaries, or a measurement that users are familiar with. If none of these situations are relevant, the following minimum widths will apply:

  • Public footpath - 1 metre (1.5 metres for a field-edge path)
  • Public bridleway - 2 metres (3 metres for a field-edge path)
  • Restricted byway or byway open to all traffic - 3 metres

The width of a public right of way can be affected by encroachment, ploughing and crops and obstructions.

Surfaces

As the Highway Authority, the council is responsible for the surface of public rights of way and it 'owns' and maintains the surface to an appropriate standard in most cases. The landowner's interest only extends to the sub-soil. The council could be liable if an injury was related to the surface of the public right of way.

Interference with the surface of a public right of way

It is an offence to interfere with the surface of a public right of way. This means that the landowner or occupier may not dig up or even resurface a public right of way without the council's permission. Landowners and occupiers must make sure that their private use of the route, in motorised vehicles for example, does not damage the surface of the path. If damage is caused, it must be put right by the landowner or occupier

For a first offence, we will ask the offender to put the surface back to its intended state within a specified time, depending on the level of damage and the work required. If this work is not done to our satisfaction, a notice will be served giving the offender a reasonable amount of time to get the work done. If the damage is still not repaired, we will carry out the work and claim the costs back from the offender. If the offender damages the surface again, we will serve a formal notice immediately and may consider prosecution

It is also an offence to dump or deposit on public rights of way. The council may require removal and seek prosecution

Landowners could be liable for any injuries to the public caused by their actions. Occupiers Liability Act 1957

Cross compliance (single payment scheme)

If a landowner or occupier breaches legislation in relation to public rights of way, they may also be in breach of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' 'Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition Standards' and 'Statutory Management Requirements'.

Landowners and occupiers must meet these standards to be able to qualify for the single payment scheme. If a landowner or occupier fails to comply with an enforcement notice issued by the council in relation to public rights of way, details of the offence will be sent to the Rural Payments Agency and their single payment scheme may be affected. The council will try to resolve the problem by co-operation first.

Dangerous animals

It is an offence for the owner or occupier of land crossed by a public right of way to allow a bull over ten months old to be alone on the land. It is also an offence to allow any bull of a recognised dairy breed to be on the land, even if it's with cows.

Bulls under ten months-old, or bulls which are not of a recognised dairy breed that are on the land with cows or heifers, are exceptions to this rule.

It may be an offence if an animal, known to be dangerous by its keeper, causes injury to a member of the public using a public right of way. The animal's keeper could be sued by the injured party.

Animals presenting a danger to the public, or intimidating path users, may also be treated as an obstruction or nuisance.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, section 59, see also Animals Act 1971, section 2

Dogs belonging to path users

Dogs are allowed on public rights of way. They don't have to be on a lead but should be kept under close control at all times and it's your responsibility to clear up after your dog if it fouls. It is an offence to allow a dog to chase livestock or be at large in an enclosed field with sheep. A path user who allows a dog to wander off the public right of way becomes a trespasser and the landowner or occupier has the right to ask them to leave the land. Dog owners are advised to use leads if their dog is likely to wander off the line of the path, or worry livestock.

Hazards

We sometimes see unfenced hazards on adjoining land that could be dangerous for path users. We have a duty to protect path users from such dangers so we will ask the landowner or occupier of the land to remove the danger, or make sure that it is adequately fenced in. If this is not done, we can serve a notice on them to make the area safe. If the landowner or occupier does not comply with the notice, we may carry out the work and recover the costs from them.

Ploughing and crops

In some circumstances, landowners or occupiers can plough on a public right of way if it is unreasonable to ask them to avoid it. This only applies to cross-field public footpaths and public bridleways - other public rights of way should never be ploughed.

If a cross-field public footpath or public bridleway is ploughed, it must be put back to its original state (see 'widths') within the 'statutory time limit' to avoid breaking the law. This time limit is 14 days for the first disturbance of the cropping cycle and 24 hours for any further disturbance, such as harrowing and drilling.

Rights of Way Act 1990, Highways Act 1980, section 134

Where a crop (other than grass) has been planted or sown on land crossed by a public right of way, the landowner or occupier must make sure that the public right of way is clear of the crop by at least the minimum width (see 'widths').

Ploughing and cropping on public rights of way can be a major problem if the path is no longer in its intended state

For a first offence, we may carry out an informal interview (recorded in writing) with the landowner or occupier to explain the situation. They will be given seven days to put the path back to its intended state. If this is not done to a satisfactory standard, we may serve a formal legal notice to give the landowner or occupier a further seven days to carry out the work. If the path is still not put back, we may carry out the work and claim the cost back from the offender.

If the offender puts the path back to its intended state within the first seven-day timescale but then repeats the offence later, we may immediately serve a formal legal notice as set out above. We may also consider prosecution for any further offences.

Obstructions

Obstructions are often simple misunderstandings that are easily dealt with. They can be 'historical', or the result of recent development work where the landowner or occupier has not taken sufficient account of the public right of way.

The landowner or occupier may be liable if injury is caused by an obstruction that they have created. For example, if a walker is injured by an electric fence put across a path, they may make a claim against the person who put it there.

The council has a duty to remove all obstructions on public rights of way and we have the right to remove anything, without consultation, that we class as an obstruction, a danger or an encroachment. But we will usually contact the landowner or occupier first to ask them to deal with the problem. If the landowner or occupier ignores this request, they will be issued with an informal notice giving them seven days to comply. If the obstruction is not removed within seven days, a formal legal notice is served requiring the offender to remove the obstruction within a specified time. If this is not done, we will remove the obstruction and claim the cost back from the offender. We may also consider prosecution for any further offences. Prosecution for wilful obstruction may result in a fine of £1,000 per offence, potentially rising to a £5,000 fine, with additional £250 daily penalties for continuing obstruction

Highways Act 1980 sections 137, 137ZA & 143, section 37,Criminal Justice Act 1982

Longstanding (historical) obstructions on public rights of way may have been 'inherited' but the current landowner or occupier must remove the obstruction within a specified time. If this isn't done, we may take enforcement action to have the obstruction removed and claim back the cost from the offender. We may also consider prosecution for any further offences.

If the obstruction is substantial (of considerable size, importance or worth and requiring major engineering works to remove or to reinstate public passage) and longstanding, or if it's substantial and being lived in, we will offer the landowner or occupier the opportunity to apply for the path to be diverted satisfactorily instead. The council would determine a reasonable timeframe for an application to be made. We would expect the owner to make an alternative route available until the diversion has been completed. There is no guarantee of success for applications and the council's costs would generally be payable.

If the landowner or occupier does not deal with the obstruction, either by removing it or by applying for a diversion, they may face prosecution and a court order to remove the obstruction. If the council refuses an application to divert a path, then the landowner or occupier must make sure that the path is available to the public as originally intended and remove the obstruction. Again, failure to do this may result in prosecution and a court order.

Electric or barbed wire fences and other livestock control

An electric fence, barbed wire fence or exposed barbed wire put across a public right of way without a safe means of crossing is an offence. It is an obstruction, a nuisance and a danger to users of the public right of way. The council will remove it or ask the owner of the fence to remove it immediately. If the landowner considers the fence to be necessary for agriculture, the owner may wish to provide an adequate means of crossing it on the line of the path.

This crossing would be classified as a new structure (see 'stiles and gates' on page 16) so the owner would need the council's authorisation to put it in place. If the owner fails to agree to either course of action, or their request is refused, we may remove the fence where it affects the path without further notice.

If the owner continues to commit further offences of this nature, the council will consider prosecution for obstruction.

Highways Act 1980 sections 137, 137ZA, and 149

Where an electric or barbed wire fence runs alongside a public right of way, it may be a danger and a nuisance to members of the public. Electric fences would be considered a nuisance unless adequately marked by notices to warn the public. If we think the fence is a danger to the public, we'll ask the landowner or occupier to make it safe for path users. If they refuse or fail to do this, we may serve a legal notice requiring them to remove the source of danger within a specified time. Failure to comply with the notice may result in the council removing the fence and recovering costs from the offender. Highways Act 1980 sections 164 and 165

Ropes

If a rope or wire is causing an obstruction on a public right of way we will remove it and then tell the landowner or occupier why we have done this. If removal of the rope would cause livestock to stray, we will contact the landowner or occupier first and ask them to remove the rope. If the landowner or occupier fails to do this, or puts up another rope after one has been removed, they may face prosecution. Highways Act 1980, section 162

Hedges and trees

In most cases, the council is not responsible for the maintenance of hedges and trees alongside public rights of way. If a hedge or tree overhangs or obstructs a public right of way, we have the right to remove the overgrowth to prevent obstruction to path users. Or we can ask the owners of overhanging hedges and trees to cut them back within 14 days. Highways Act 1980 section 154

If hedges or trees block light or airflow on a public right of way, we will talk to the landowner or occupier and ask them to cut back the vegetation. Or we may offer to work with them to do this as part of a larger maintenance project. If they don't co-operate, we can seek an order that requires the owner to cut back the vegetation within a specified time. Highways Act 1980 section 136

If a fallen tree branch obstructs a public right of way, we will contact the tree's owner and ask them to remove the branch within a specified time. If they fail to do this, we will remove the branch and claim the cost back from the owner. If necessary, we may remove the branch immediately. Highways Act 1980 section 150 (4) (c)

Encroachment

An encroachment is an unlawful obstruction of a public right of way. The council will investigate an encroachment,or alleged encroachment, and take appropriate action.

We will consider if there is an actual encroachment and if it affects the public right of way, or may affect it in the future. We may need to carry out research to establish the legitimate width of the public right of way (see 'widths').

If there is an encroachment but it doesn't affect the public right of way or its users, we may regard it as 'de minimis'. This means it lacks significance or importance. In such cases, we will tell the person responsible for the encroachment that their actions are unlawful and any additional encroachment will result in enforcement. We may take further action at a later date.

If we consider that an encroachment does affect a public right of way and its users, we will give the person responsible for the encroachment a reasonable amount of time to remove it. If this is not done, we will take further action to have it removed.

Stiles and gates

Landowners and occupiers must make sure that formally recorded and authorised stiles and gates are kept in a good state of repair. The council's duty is to make sure landowners and occupiers meet this obligation and we may offer a grant of 25% towards repairing such stiles and gates. Highways Act 1980 section 146

A stile or gate may be formally recorded in the Definitive Map and Statement and may have been authorised by a formal written authority from the council under the relevant legislation.

If a landowner or occupier wants to put a new gate on a public right of way, they must apply in writing to the council for permission. Permission won't usually be given for any additional stiles because they are not suitable for people with limited mobility. Permission for new gates will only be given if they are necessary to control animals. Putting up a gate without permission may be regarded as a criminal offence (see 'obstructions'). Highways Act 1980 section 147

View DEFRA's good practice guidance on authorising structures at:

If a gate crosses an enclosed public right of way, such as a lane enclosed by hedges, then it should be unlocked even if there is a stile or gate alongside it off the path. A locked gate could be regarded as an obstruction and may be dealt with as such unless it is preventing livestock escaping onto a road. If this is the case, an alternative means of access must be provided alongside the locked gate.

Misleading and unlawful signs

These signs and notices often stop people from using public rights of way and the council has a duty to make sure this doesn't happen. We have the right to remove any misleading or unlawful signs placed on public rights of way. If the sign is on land next to a public right of way, we can apply for a court order to get the offender to remove it, or be fined regularly until they do remove it.

Highways Act 1980 section 132 and National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 section 57 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, Section 69

Signs and waymarks

These are traffic signs and it is against the law to interfere with them, damage or remove them. Anyone found carrying out such an offence is liable to be prosecuted. Section 22A, Road Traffic Act 1988

Police matters

Some situations can put the public in danger - aggressive or abusive behavior or unauthorised driving on a public right of way for example. Such incidents should be reported first to the police who have powers to deal with them. Section 34, Road Traffic Act 1988

Definitive Map and Statement

The council is responsible for the Definitive Map and Statement which is a legal record of the public's right of way in Kirklees. If a public right of way is shown on the map, it proves that public rights exist along that route unless a change has been legally authorised.

There may be additional public rights over land that have not yet been recorded on the map, or rights that have been incorrectly recorded. The Definitive Map and Statement can be amended by legal order if evidence of missing rights of way is discovered, or to correct errors in previously recorded information.

Public rights of way are highways that are protected by law, which are recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement. View and comment on Public Path Orders (PPO) and Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMO). Changes to the Definitive Map and Statement

Report problems with a right of way

Contact us about adding, changing or removing a public right of way temporarily or permanently.

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