Can I put a gate on a public right of way? Understanding the rules and guidelines

CLA National Access Adviser Claire Wright explains what members should consider if they are contemplating putting up a structure on a public right of way
Gate by property

One question we get asked a lot in the legal department at the CLA is: ‘Can I put a gate across a public right of way?’

The simple answer to this is “no you can’t”, but as is usually the case with public access queries, it is a slightly more complicated picture.

You may install a gate or other barrier across a right of way if you secure the consent of the local authority, but if you proceed without their permission, you may be subject to enforcement action.

Authorising a gate on a right of way

There is a mechanism under S147 of the Highways Act 1980 which gives the highway authority the power to authorise structures such as gates on footpaths and bridleways. This is to prevent the egress or ingress of livestock from land being used for agriculture but this does not extend to security improvements needed at rural businesses. Therefore, a gate on a public right of way needs permission from the local authority, which will only be granted if it is needed to control such things as livestock movements or prevent deer from getting in.

At the time of writing, S147 authorisations cannot be used to allow a gate to be placed across a byway or a restricted byway. However, S24 of the Deregulation Act 2015 when enacted will extend the powers of local authorities to authorise gates and other structures on restricted byways and byways open to all traffic.

If you impede the user’s rights by installing a new gate or other structure that has not been in that spot before across the public right of way without authorisation, then you may find that the local authority will look to take enforcement action against you.

Local authorities may choose to serve a notice under S143 of the Highways Act 1980, requiring the person who placed the obstruction (in this case a gate across a right of way) to remove it within a certain timeframe. If the notice is not complied with, they can prosecute under S137 which covers wilful obstructions of the highway.

If you require further advice on this topic or have queries relating to private rights of way, do not hesitate to contact the CLA’s legal department.

Key contact:

Claire Wright (9).jpg
Claire Wright National Access Adviser, London