The purpose of this guidance note is to provide information for members who have public rights of way (PROW) across their land. It is important members understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to the management of PROW.
There are over 140,000 miles of PROW and over 2.5 million acres of open access land in England and Wales. PROW are categorised in four different ways: public footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic. Public footpaths can be used by walkers only; bridleways by walkers, horse riders and cyclists; restricted byways by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and non-motorised vehicles and finally, byways open to all traffic can be used by walkers, horse riders, cyclists, non-motorised vehicles and motorised vehicles.
If you are uncertain whether your land is affected by a PROW, you can check the Definitive Map for the area which is held by your local authority. The Definitive Map and Statement is a record of PROW which Surveying Authorities have a duty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to keep up to date. If a route is shown on the Definitive Map, the public have a right to use it, the map and statement is conclusive. However, there may be rights of way not shown on the map that are valid or they are shown but not correctly recorded such as a footpath that ought to be a bridleway. The Definitive Statement sometimes provides details of route surfaces, widths and furniture such as gates and stiles. Changes may only be made to the Definitive Map and Statement through a modification order.
Anyone can view the Definitive Map, free of charge at their local authority offices. Some local authorities also now have online versions available to see via their websites.