Landowners and farmers are being urged to review the rights of way crossing their land in light of amendments to the regulations that govern dedicated highways in England.
Lawyer Fiona Sedgley, from FBC Manby Bowdler, said the changes to the legislation, which came into force on December 1, could signal a more straightforward way for people to prevent additional rights of way being created on their land.
From December 1, local authorities no longer have to publicly declare where and when a landowner submits a declaration to them under s31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 – a legal tool used by landowners to stop further rights of way being established – and the public no longer have to be notified of a new declaration.
Fiona, a member of the firm’s Agricultural and Rural Services team, said that considering rights of way in place over land should be something landowners formalise with their local authority.
She explained: “Whilst a landowner might be perfectly happy having rights of way cross their land, they might not be comfortable with the idea that further rights may be created without their knowledge. A s31(6) Highways Declaration is designed to minimise this risk.
“If a landowner has land that could be earmarked for development, they may not want members of the public claiming a right of way. It could affect a planning application.
“Under the new regime, local authorities no longer have to post a visible notice on the relevant land to inform members of the public that a s31(6) Highways Declaration has been submitted, include details on its website or email interested parties who respond to the notice.”
Fiona added: “Publishing public notices can create delays and add to the overall cost of submitting a s31(6) Highways Declaration.
“With the new regulations in force, landowners could see application fees reduced and the process of submitting an application speeding up by reducing the amount of correspondence between the local authority, landowner and interested parties.
“It is important to note that a s31(6) Highways Declaration cannot remove an existing right of way but serves only to prevent additional rights of way being established. Once submitted, they are effective for 20 years at which point the position should be reviewed.”
Landowners concerned about the creation of new rights of way on their land should contact Fiona Sedgley on 01743 266271 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice.