Feb 05 Public rights of way – By Tracy Sutton
Walking is Britain’s most popular outdoor recreation and it is popular with all ages. It is an excellent way to exercise for health, weight control, stress relief, to sharing experiences, to appreciate the local environment and to learn to understand how to look after it.
Best of all it is a free activity and almost everyone can do it, at anywhere, anytime at all levels – visiting new places and having new experiences. We cannot course ignore that walking is the most sustainable and free means of travel.
Public Rights of Way (PROW) give access to parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, community forests and the countryside; bringing in walkers brings in economic benefits to the area – ever stopped for a pint and a sarnie on a walk?
The origins of the PROW networks are from people travelling from A to B where permissive access was granted by landowners; the biggest change to the network is the shift toward use for recreation and protection of PROW by legislation. The countryside is now a multi user area and careful consideration needs to be given for all who have the right to be there.
Who can use a Public Right of Way?
A PROW allows permitted use of a route depending on its status:
·Footpaths can only be used on foot
·Bridleways can also be used with a horse or bicycle
·Byways are open to all traffic and permitted to be used by vehicles with a motor engine that are registered, taxed and MOT’ed
·Restricted byways are open to vehicles pushed, pulled, or pedalled by humans or animals
The landowner is the only person that can agree to a member of public wishing to use an unauthorised means of travel on a route e.g. a landowner can consent to allowing permissive access to horse riders and/or cyclists on a footpath.
Pushchairs, mobility scooters and dogs can use footpaths where reasonable but there is no expectation that the way will be suitable. Dogs may have to be lifted over stiles, surfaces may not be good for mobility scooters/pushchairs and legitimate (to be discussed later) safety and stock barriers may prevent the passage of pushchairs and mobility scooters.
As a user of a PROW you have a responsibility to travel as to not to cause danger to other users, damage to property (includes the surface of a PROW), not to cause a nuisance and to keep to the PROW.
So how can you find out about where Public Rights of Way exist?
The local Highway Authority is responsible for the Definitive Map and Statements; these are legally conclusive records of the PROW. You may find you local Council has online access to view a representation of the local PROW but these will not be legally conclusive. Here’s a link to Worcestershire’s for an example http://gis.worcestershire.gov.uk/website/Leisure/viewer.htm
Ordnance survey maps also represent the network but are not legally conclusive. You can view Definitive Map and Statements at request to your local Authority.
More to come on the topic next month!