Are you a farmer that owns or rents land?  Then, it’s very possible that you will have land with public rights of way (PROW).

If you are a farmer that owns or occupies agricultural land with PROW, there are several rules you should be aware of.  We’ve provided a brief guide to the various rules and responsibilities below, however as always, full guidance is available at GOV.UK.

Public Rights Of Way fall into the following categories:

  • footpaths;
  • bridleways;
  • restricted byways;
  • byways open to all traffic (BOATs).

Don’t forget if you’re a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claimant, complying with these rules is part of Cross Compliance and penalties could apply if you’re found to be in breach.

Keep Public Right of ways clear of obstructions…

You have an obligation to keep routes visible and clear of obstructions. Indeed, obstructing a PROW deliberately is a criminal offence.  In practice, this means keeping them clear of permanent or temporary fences, animal feeders, hedgerows growth, padlocked gates and encroaching crops (other than grass).  You should also be giving thought to the height clearance required for different users; such as horse riders.

Maintain or replace structures…

If stiles and gates are on your PROW, they are your responsibility.  You must maintain them to a standard that makes them safe and easy to use.  Did you know that you can claim 25% (on average) from the highway authority for the cost of any replacement work?  If and when, a stile should need replacing, always consult the highway authority first to decide what should be put in it’s place.  In most cases, a gap will be preferred as it will provide easier access, they also require less maintenance than stiles, so costs can be reduced.

Stay up to date with restrictions on livestock and agriculture

Are you aware that you can be prosecuted if you keep any potentially dangerous animal on land crossed by a PROW.  If you need to spray land crossed by a PROW, then use pesticides approved for such use.  Where a PROW crosses or runs alongside a field, an informal alternative route can be provided with appropriate signposting to advise users of any dangers.  However, this does not close the PROW.  If members of the public are using the PROW, then spraying must be stopped.

Reinstate ploughed crossfield PROWs

If you have to cultivate a cross field footpath, you must make good the surface of the path within 14 days if a crop is being planted or within 24hrs in all other cases. You must not cultivate footpaths or bridleways that follow a field edge. The minimum width that needs to keep undisturbed is:

  • 5 metres for a field-edge footpath;
  • 3 metres for a field-edge bridleway, BOAT or restricted byway.

How to create, close, upgrade, downgrade or re-route a PROW…

Highway authorities have certain powers to make changes to the PROW network in their areas.  You can agree to create a new PROW or apply to your highway authority to make an order extinguishing, diverting, upgrading or downgrading a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway in some circumstances.

Whilst a lot of the information about the routes of rights of way is now online, the original and definitive records are usually still held on paper and are usually available from your county or local authority records office.

If you would like further advice on Public Rights of Way and your land, then please contact Charles 01684 325215 or 07814 033449.