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 by the public ‘as of right’ (without force, secrecy or permission). This is known as ‘deemed dedication’. Deemed dedication cannot occur where the landowner has demonstrated a lack of intention to dedicate during the relevant 20-year period. 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 Commons Act 2006 allows anyone to make an application to register a piece of land as a new town or village green. We have a duty to investigate all applications 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 or village green if they undertake overt actions to make it clear to the public that they have no ‘right’ to cross or be on their land.
An overt action may be:
- The erection of carefully worded notices sited in relevant locations
- The regular locking of a gate
- Verbal challenges to users of the way or area
- The depositing of a highways statement followed by a subsequent highways declaration for public rights of way or a landowner statement for village greens.
Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 enables a landowner, or an authorised representative, to deposit a highways statement, accompanied with a map, with us. Those documents acknowledge any existing public rights of way across their land and, at the same time, declares that no other ways have been dedicated as highways. Within 20-years of making their highways statement the landowner should then submit a highways declaration to complete the process. Further declarations can be made periodically so long as there is never more than a 20-year gap between them.
This process does not extinguish any pre-existing public rights of way (whether recorded or not). However, it does prevent the deemed dedication of rights from occurring during any 20 year period which overlaps with the period between a highways statement and subsequent declaration(s).
Section 15A of the 2006 Act enables a landowner, or an authorised representative, to deposit a landowner statement accompanied with a map with us. This is to protect that landowner’s land from registration as a town or village green. These effectively bring to an end any period of qualifying use for the purposes of registering a town or village green.
Register of deposits
Once lodged with the Council, deposits of the type referred to above become public documents and available for public inspection. Local authorities are required to keep a public register of them. We maintain the electronic version of the register in the form of an interactive map.
Making a deposit
Before making a deposit, you are strongly advised to read Defra’s guidance (a link to which can be found at the bottom of this page). A copy of the relevant application form is also available via that link.
There is a charge of £100 for making a deposit under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980. For deposits made under Section 15A of the Commons Act 2006 (or jointly with a Section 31(6) deposit) then the charge is £180 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.
Completed application forms should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. When you send us an application form you must make sure 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. It should show the boundary of the land to which the application relates (the extent of landownership) in coloured edging.
- The application is accompanied by the appropriate fee.
Once the application and plan have been checked against the definitive map, we will send you a letter of acceptance to confirm that the deposit has been registered. We will also:
- Add details of the deposit to our register
- Include a notice of the making of the deposit on our website
- In the case of deposits made under section 15A, put notices at ‘at least one entrance to each parcel of land’ and these will remain in place for at least 60 days
Applications are usually processed within 4 weeks.
You should keep copies of your deposit and make a note to renew the application within 20 years. The responsibility of submitting a highways declaration or landowner statement every 20 years lies with the landowner or any successors in title of the land. We are under no duty to remind landowners. While 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.