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’. 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 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
- 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.
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’
Section 31(6) of the 1980 Act enables a landowner to deposit a statement accompanied with a map, followed by a declaration, with us, 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, or an authorised representative, to deposit a landowner statement accompanied with a map with us, to protect that landowner’s land from registration as a town or village green.
If you contact us we will send you an application form. Guidance notes on how to complete the application are at the beginning of the form.
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 (a map at 1:5,000 is acceptable as an example). 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.
Please send your completed application back to us at the address below. Once the application and plan have been checked against the definitive map, we will send you a letter of acceptance to confirm that the statement and map have been submitted to us for depositing. Applications are usually processed within 4 weeks.
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. We are 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.
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.