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  • Keep public rights of way clear of obstructions

    As the owner or occupier of land with a public right of way across it, you must:

    avoid putting obstructions on or across the route, such as permanent or temporary fences, walls, hedgerows, padlocked gates or barbed wire
    make sure vegetation does not encroach onto the route from the sides or above, bearing in mind the different clearances needed for users of different types of route, for example by horse riders

    Obstructing a public right of way is a criminal offence. The highway authority has the right to demand you remove any obstruction you cause. If you don’t, the highway authority can remove the obstruction and recover the cost from you.

    You must not disturb the surface of byways, restricted byways and unsurfaced public roads, eg by cultivating.

    Public rights of way: local highway authority responsibilities

    Maintaining and protecting public rights of way

    The highway authority must:

    keep the surface of public rights of way which are maintained at public expense in a fit state for public use
    make sure obstructions are removed
    maintain some bridges over natural watercourses, including farm ditches
    provide at least a 25% contribution to landowners’ costs for replacing and maintaining structures for the control of animals, eg gates or stiles, on completion of the work to a standard the highway authority is satisfied with
    make sure there are no notices that prevent or discourage the use of a public right of way
    add signs where a public right of way leaves metalled roads
    make sure the public’s rights to use a public right of way are protected
    make sure landowners carry out their duties, and take action if they don’t

    Removing obstructions

    It’s an offence to obstruct or block a public right of way. Anyone can report an obstruction to the local authority and request that it is removed.

    You must:

    respond to all requests within 1 month to confirm receipt
    contact the person who complained to tell them what action you’re taking
    make sure the obstruction is removed, either by the local authority or the person responsible for it (you can charge them a fee to remove it)

    If you haven’t removed the obstruction within 2 months of you writing to the person who complained they can apply for a court order to have it removed. The magistrates’ court may then take out an order against the local highway authority for the removal of the obstruction.

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