Government re-implements 2031 deadline to register England’s footpaths

Following intense CLA lobbying, Defra announces January 2031 cut-off date for adding unrecorded rights of way after previously announcing decision to repeal it

The UK Government has agreed to a new cut-off date for adding unrecorded rights of way to the Definitive Map in England instead of removing it following continued CLA work.

In February 2022, Defra announced a decision to repeal the cut-off date provisions in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW). This was set for 1 January 2026 for recording historic (pre-1949) rights of way on the map. The map is intended to record all historic rights of way and members of the public have long been able to apply to update where they have evidence.

Following that decision, the CLA worked extensively with civil servants and officials to find a workable solution, including meeting with Rural Affairs Minister Richard Benyon to outline concerns on how it would impact members.

Defra has decided to proceed with the cut-off date instead of repealing it to promote responsible access, protect nature and support people who work and live in the countryside. The new cut-off date is 1 January 2031.

Defra says that the cut-off date will bring certainty to all parties.

In response, CLA President Mark Tufnell says:

Maintaining a cut-off date for historic right of way applications is a positive step for land managers in England. The current process has left rural businesses in limbo, with the potential of a claim hanging over every landowner indefinitely.

“Local councils have found themselves swamped by applications to add historic rights of way to the definitive map. There are already huge backlogs to deal with claims that have been submitted. The decision by the Secretary of State to implement the cut-off date brings a degree of certainty and will start to ease the burden faced by under-resourced local councils.

“The current process brings campaigners and landowners against one another when in reality both share the desire to enjoy the countryside and protect our wildlife. We are eager to work in collaboration with Defra and campaigning groups to ensure people can continue to responsibly experience the benefits of the countryside in decades to come. The CLA is pleased that the Secretary of State has decided to take forward its suggestion to implement the cut-off with a revised date of 2031.”