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Public rights of way

What is a public right of way, where to find them and who's responsible

Public sign

What is a Public Right of Way?

A Public Right of Way is a route over which the public have a right to pass and repass, whether or not the land that it crosses is privately-owned.

Those rights have then been legally recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement for Hillingdon. Public Rights of Way are signposted at each end and may also be waymarked along the route.

In total there are over 112 km of registered Public Rights of Way, forming over 387 routes. The routes can vary in length from a few metres, to routes which form part of Hillingdon's permissive walks and trails.

How to recognise a Public Right of Way

Public footpath sign

Public Footpath - For walkers only and signed with a yellow arrow. You are allowed to take a pram or wheelchair along a public footpath but please be aware that many rural routes may not be physically suitable for that purpose.

Public bridleway sign

Bridleway - Right of way on foot, horseback and pedal cycle, signed with a blue arrow. Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders. 

Public byway sign

Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) - Right of way on foot, horseback, pedal cycle and motorised vehicles, subject to the character of the way, signed with a red arrow. Due to their nature, they are mainly used as a bridleway or footpath.

Who is responsible for Public Rights of Way?

Responsibility and management of the rights of way network lies with Hillingdon Council as the Highway Authority. In addition to the responsibilities of the council, landowners and rights of way users have responsibilities which ensure the network remains accessible.

Private rights of way or easements are not the council's responsibility; issues of this nature should be addressed to a solicitor or Citizen's Advice Bureau.

View the Council's Public Right of Way Definitive Map and Statement and find out how to claim or make change to Public Rights of Way.

Rights of Way Improvement Plan

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000 placed a duty on all Highway Authorities to produce a Rights of Way Improvement Plan. [1Mb]. The plan provides an opportunity to assess and enhance the borough's Rights of Way network.

The development of the plan was influenced by statutory government guidance and consultation with internal stakeholders and external organisations. Following the consultation a statement of eight actions were identified. The actions are based on the findings of an assessment of the Definitive Map and Statement and consultation to provide an improved network of routes over the next ten years.

Council responsibilities

In the majority of cases the council has control over the surface of the public rights of way, but some public right of way run along private tracks, in these cases the land owner may be liable for the surface.

  • Maintenance of the surface of the path including removal of surface vegetation (except crops).
  • Maintenance of bridges over water courses and ditches (if there when the path was recorded).
  • Positioning of signs posts where Rights of Way leave metalled roads, way marking of routes may be necessary.
  • Assert and protect the public's right to use the Public Right of Way.
  • Prevent the stopping up or obstruction of Public Rights of Way.
  • Ensure that no intimidating or misleading signs deter the public from using route shown on the definitive map.
  • To keep the Definitive Map and Statement under continuous review.

Landowner's responsibilities

  • Removal of vegetation encroaching from the sides and above to maintain the line of the route. Bridleways should allow for 3 meters of head room for the rider.
  • Keep the route clear of obstructions, such as locked gates, fencing or rubbish.
  • Ensure furniture such as gates, stiles or bridges are maintained in good order. The Highway Authority must be notified of any proposed changes as these may be a part of the legal definition of the route. The landowner is legally responsible for Insurance Liability claims where the public uses stiles and gates, and must therefore ensure that they are well maintained and safe to use.
  • Keep routes clear of crops; ensure that field edge routes are not cultivated.
  • Ensure that bulls are not kept in a field crossed by a Public Right of Way unless they do not exceed 10 months old or are both not of a recognised dairy breed and are accompanied by cows or heifers.
  • Ensure warning signs are displayed when a bull is present in a field.
  • Waymark routes if owner feels it is necessary.
  • Ensure that no intimidating or misleading signs deter the public from using route.

It is in the interest of the landowner to assist the Highway Authority in maintaining the precise route of a path, as this will prevent trespass by the public into other areas of the land.

User responsibilities

  • Use gates and stiles to cross hedges and fences.
  • Leave all gates and stiles as found.
  • Keep to routes across farmland or private land.
  • Keep dogs under control.
  • Take litter home with you.
  • Respect surrounding neighbours.

Reporting a problem

If you should encounter a problem on any right of way in the borough , please report it.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 23 May 2017 at 11:13