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Reining in Ramblers Rights of Way

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Landowners may have a ray of positive light when it comes to the contentious issue of footpaths crossing their land. Legislation that enables historic rights of way to be turned into footpaths where there has been 20 years of unhindered public use has long caused tensions between ramblers and landowners.

Often landowners have found that the footpaths being claimed run through parts of their property that they consider an intrusion, such as those through gardens near to their houses, or through areas they consider dangerous, such as working farm yards. This has left many individual landowners with little choice but to mount costly challenges against local councils.

An intervention by the Environment Secretary, Owen Patterson, over the Deregulation Bill means that it will now be easier for landowners to get footpaths diverted in these circumstances.

How will the Deregulation Bill Help?

The Deregulation Bill is designed to clear up red tape and speed up regulatory processes in order to make them more efficient.

Currently the process for establishing rights of way is very cumbersome and has led to numerous bitter legal battles that have been drawn out over long periods of time as landowners and residents groups have tried to protect themselves from intrusion. The unwieldy and confrontational process with its potential for disputes has led to significant backlogs in applications to add paths to official maps within local authorities.

The Bill will make the process easier to add paths to official maps but it will also make it easier for landowners to apply to have intrusive paths diverted. This should reduce the potential hostility that can arise and make the process easier for both parties.

How Will Paths be Diverted?

The main benefit of the changes for landowners will be that there will be a presumption in favour of diverting footpaths where the landowner requests it.

The move is a significant positive for landowners though it does not mean that a diversion will be automatic. The diversion will only be granted if it is not significantly less convenient and does not hamper peoples’ ability to use and enjoy the path. In addition, landowners will have to bear the cost of the diversion.

Landowners should welcome the news as an early agreement is likely to be significantly less costly than protracted legal proceedings while avoiding the stress of confrontation with faceless councils.

Comment

The Deregulation Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. The provisions relating to footpaths should provide some relief to landowners and have been welcomed by the National Farmers Union.

For specialist advice in relation to footpaths contact Peter Gourri today by email PGourri@rollingsons.co.uk or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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