Footpath Diversion worth the wait?

Clients in Herefordshire have finally had their footpath diversion confirmed after nearly two decades!  The cross-field path has been diverted on to the neighbouring farm track, which is the route people have walked for so long.  The case was dealt with by the “written representations” method of determining objections, and the clients are very relieved it is finally at an end.  It was certainly worth the wait!

Not all cases are like this, thankfully, and the new procedures in the Right to Apply legislation are intended to make a marked improvement to the speed of the process.  There is no inherent reason why a diversion should take so long.  It is either a “good diversion” (in the sense that it meets the statutory tests and DEFRA guidance) or it is not.

It might be thought that delay benefits the objectors but that is rarely the case.  Like the applicants and their advisers, we all only have so long on this earth and if you have a genuinely held objection to a proposal, surely it is better to have it considered and move on!

Any paralysis in the system usually arises from an approach that “we have always done things like that”.  It is an approach which has been swept aside in so many areas of our lives without harm.  The procedure retains the rights of the public to play a full part in the determination of path proposals, even through to a public inquiry if really needed.

You can always talk to us about how we can help you.  Call Michael Wood on 07796 958572 or email Michael at and see what solutions there are to these issues.


Equestrian enterprises benefit from path diversions.

We have recently achieved public path diversions for two clients each with equestrian interests.

In Wiltshire, the bridleway running through this working yard has been diverted as part of a development of farm buildings using planning legislation.  At a public inquiry in December we represented the owner and called supporters and expert evidence to satisfy the Inspector that the proposal should be confirmed.

Yard Picture

Meanwhile in Devon, and the village of Kings Nympton, our clients breed racehorses and the main paddock was crossed by a footpath which few people used, choosing instead an alternative permissive path that formed the basis of the diversion.  Neighbours and the Parish Council were opposed because of the perceived impact on properties near the diversion.

The design for the new path was detailed and a little unusual but reflected the importance of the diversion to the client.  It incorporated specific fencing and drainage provisions to address points made by objectors. This was the design plan we produced to the Inspector:

Kings N Footpath

This case was ultimately determined by written representations with the Inspector carrying out an unaccompanied site visit.  Where this method can be used it is undoubtedly cheaper for the client. Following the decision to confirm the Order, the new route is now being constructed so that the diversion can take effect.

These two recent cases demonstrate the importance of creative thinking and solutions.  The Wiltshire diversion would have taken much longer and met greater challenge had it not been possible to engage the planning procedures for path diversions.  We always consider this possibility.  The Devon case showed the importance of thoughtful design in a diversion proposal.

We work with a number of equestrian businesses throughout England addressing the particular issues they can have.

As always, more information and advice is available from us via our website – or you can email Michael Wood – or call us on 0203 086 7657

Maps and Statements – The Landowner’s Friend

Landowners have a pretty tough time when it comes to public rights of way.  Footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic have a significant impact on land.  Landowners think that the land is no longer theirs as the public right takes precedence over private interests.

Just think about some of the implications of a path being recorded on land.  Unless it was gated during the period it was deemed to be dedicated to the public, no gates can be erected unless the consent of the highway authority is provided and only then for the purpose of stock control.  Anybody using the way for its public purpose cannot be challenged regardless of their intentions for being there.

Claims by the public can be made at any time and for any motive provided evidence of use over 20 years can be adduced.  Even where the landowner has an argument strong enough to ultimately defeat the case the process must still be gone through and the evidence tested at a hearing or inquiry at a cost to the landowner and the public purse.

Landowners do have a friend, however.  It may be unable to tackle claims based on historic documents but it can draw a line in the sand so that landowners manage the position better in the future. The friend is the Map and Statement – or more properly a deposit made under Section 31(6) Highways Act 1980.

If you own land and you think people are walking on it, then prepare (or get someone to prepare) a Map and Statement.  As they say “you would be mad not to”.

What is it?  Simply it is a map of your land on which you show existing public rights of way and that is attached to a statement which sets out the history of your land ownership, identifies existing paths and contains the phrase “I have not dedicated and I do not intend to dedicate any further ways to the public” – or something very similar to those words.

How does it work? The Map and Statement are deposited with your local highway authority – the County or Unitary Authority covering your area.  They place it on deposit and record it in their register.  You confirm the contents by a statutory declaration and that is that.  It acts as a public statement of your intention that challenges any further public use and it provides the necessary evidence that you do not intend dedication of another route which is essential in defeating a claim for a public right of way based on use which occurs after the deposit has been completed.

You renew the statutory declaration every 10 years or when any changes to the rights of way network are made on your land (such as a path diversion).

We do these for our clients all the time and we advise professional agents who do them for their clients.  As always, if you need more information I am always happy to chat informally to put you on the right track.

Michael Wood, Director ETL – 0845 83 88 440 or email