Public rights of way can come into being by deemed dedication. A public right of way such as a footpath or a bridleway may be recorded if it is shown that there has been at least 20 years uninterrupted use of a way by the public 'as of right’ (without force, secrecy or permission). This is known as ‘deemed dedication’. Anyone can make an application (under section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) to have a route recorded or upgraded on the Definitive Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way (the legal record).
A town or village green may be registered if it is shown that the inhabitants of a locality, or a neighbourhood within a locality, have used an area ‘as of right’ for a period of at least 20 years for the purposes of lawful sports and pastimes. The 2006 Act allows anyone to make an application to register a piece of land as a new town/village green. The County Council has a duty to investigate all such applications that are submitted.
A landowner can show that they have no intention of dedicating a public right of way or challenge recreational use in relation to a town/village green if they undertake ‘overt’ actions to make it clear to the public that they have no ‘right’ to cross or be on his/her land.
An overt action may be:
- The erection of carefully worded notices sited in relevant locations
- The locking of a gate at least once a year
- Challenges to users of the way or area, making a note of dates, times and names if possible
- The depositing of a statement and map followed by a subsequent declaration under section 31(6) of the 1980 Act for public rights of way or a statement under section 15A of the 2006 Act for village greens.
Section 31(6) of the 1980 Act enables a landowner to deposit a statement accompanied with a map, followed by a declaration, with the County Council (“an appropriate council”), acknowledging any existing public rights of way across their land at the same time as declaring that they have no intention to dedicate any further routes to the public.
Section 15A of the 2006 Act enables a landowner to deposit a landowner statement accompanied with a map with the county council (“a commons registration authority”), to protect that landowner’s land from registration of a town or village green.
Who can use it?
The landowner or by their duly authorised representative.
How do I use it?
Contact us and we will send you an application form. Our contact details can be found at the bottom of this page. You can find an example of the application form in the Information and resources section.
Guidance notes on how to complete the application can be found at the start of the form. When you receive an application form from us you must ensure that:
- The application is signed by every owner of the land to which the application relates, or by their duly authorised representative.
- The application is accompanied by a plan, showing the Rights of Way over the land, at a scale of not less than 1:10,560 (a map at 1:5,000 is acceptable for example). It should show the boundary of the land to which the application relates (i.e. the extent of landownership) in coloured edging.
- The application is accompanied by the appropriate fee.
What happens next?
Please send your completed application back to us at the address below. Once the application and plan have been checked against the definitive map, a letter of acceptance will be sent to you to confirm that the statement and map have been submitted to the County Council for depositing.
For Section 31(6) deposits, a statutory declaration should be submitted within 20 years of the date of the statement to validate and complete the process. Further declarations should be submitted every 20 years.
For Section 15A(1) deposits a further statement should be submitted within 20 years to bring to an end any further period of recreational ‘as of right’ use. Please note that, for deposits made under Section 15A of the Commons Act, we will be placing a notice at ‘at least one entrance to each parcel of land’ and these should remain in place for 60 days.
You should keep copies of maps, statements and declarations with the title deeds of your property for future reference and make a note to renew the application within 20 years. The responsibility of submitting a statutory declaration or statement every 20 years lies with the landowner or any successors in title of the land, in order to maintain the original deposit’s effectiveness. Somerset County Council is under no duty to remind landowners.
What is covered?
It covers any claims arising from use of the land, for a period of time, from the date on the application onwards. It has no effect on the existence of public rights of way already shown on the definitive map or otherwise shown to carry public rights, including by deemed dedication by virtue of 20 years use, before the map and statement was deposited. It also does not apply to cases where an application to record a public right of way is based on historical documentary evidence.
How long does it take?
Applications are usually processed within 4 weeks.
How much does it cost?
‘There is a charge of £100 for making a deposit under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act. For deposits made under Section 15A of the Commons Act (or jointly with a Section 31(6) deposit) then the charge is £250 for a single plot of land and normally an extra £85 for each additional plot. Please note that a Highways Statement constitutes a separate application from a Highways Declaration’
Whilst we accept these deposits, we are under no obligation to carry out an exhaustive check; responsibility for the validity of the deposit rests with the depositor.