The 1980 Highways Act deals with the management and operations of the road networks within England and Wales. Section 31 (6) of the Highways Act 1980 enables landowners to acknowledge the existence of public rights of way (PROW) across their land, and allows landowners to prevent new PROW being established by ‘presumed dedication’.

Presumed dedication refers to a long existing principle that new PROW can be created following the use of a route by members of the public, principally, for a period of twenty years or more.

Section 31 (6) does not prohibit the creation of new rights of way after twenty years use, where all that use was prior to the submission of the landowner’s statutory declaration, nor if the existence of the right of way can be proven with historical documentation.

The procedure for farmers and landowner’s acknowledging public rights of way across their land is as follows:

  1. The landowner sends a statement to the County Council outlining the land in question and details any rights of way that are known to exist on that land. The statement must be accompanied with a plan to scale (no less than 6 inches to the mile, 1:10000 or larger). This needs to be signed and dated by the landowner. This acknowledges the existing rights of way but also declares that they have no intention to dedicate any further routes to the public.
  2. This statement should be followed by a statutory declaration submitted by the landowner, which must be signed in the presence of a solicitor. The statutory declaration confirms the previous statement or acknowledges any changes or additions to the rights of way over the land.
  3. A new statutory declaration needs to be submitted to the Highways Authority no later than 10 years after the date of the previous submission for the process to remain valid.
  4. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has a requirement on the surveying authorities to keep a register of the statutory declarations.

It is advised that farmers and landowners act upon this to ensure that no public rights of way are created inadvertently by presumed dedication.

If you have footpaths crossing your land and would like our help and advice, call Richard Edge or Alex Orttewell on 01935 852170 or email