Almost 12 months ago, I penned a short blog here on our website which was essentially to alert farmers and landowners to changes around Public Rights of Way (PROW) – a complex and often confused area of legislation, especially in rural communities.
That blog talked about the problems which have been brought on by the Definitive Map and Statement (DMS), which was produced by local authorities following the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
Essentially, it had become clear that PROW on the widely-trusted map had in fact been detailed incorrectly – with some paths given the wrong status, some in the wrong position, private routes being shown as public, and others just simply missing.
As I wrote at the time, this ultimately led to a confusing picture with legal challenges potentially at every turn for landowners, farmers, and local authorities.
It was a situation muddled further by Section 53 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) which was introduced to provide a cut-off date of 1 January 2026 for all PROW created before 1 January 1949 to be recorded on the DMS – meaning those which hadn’t been detailed on the DMS by this date would have been terminated immediately.
On top of this, and to add to the complex picture, DEFRA announced in February last year that the cut-off date proposal was being scrapped – much to the frustration of many experts and lobby groups.
However, things have changed dramatically and in recent weeks bringing good news for landowners, but not such good news for the likes of ramblers associations.
Following intense lobbying from the CLA, the proposed cut-off date is now being reinstated by DEFRA, but with the Secretary of State also proposing to grant a five-year extension until 1 January 2031.
This really is excellent news for farmers and landowners as more than anything, it will give them certainty about historical PROW affecting their land and provide a sure-footed position moving forward – meaning they know exactly where a PROW is, and the country will at last have a trusted historical record. The only issue I have, is how local authorities will deal with a potential huge influx of applications – a problem which will likely be addressed at a local or regional level, but still one which may hold up applications.
Farmers and landowners who are unsure about the DEFRA U-turn and need further advice, should speak to a legal specialist at the earliest opportunity.
About the author
Based at our offices in Worcester, Hannah Taylor is a senior associate within our award-winning Agricultural and Rural Affairs Division.
If you require any advice relating to Public Rights of Way, or other rural-related issues, please do not hesitate to contact Hannah through 01905 610410, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Readers can also connect with Hannah on LinkedIn through https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-taylor-66b35553/