Guidance for Landowners
Public rights of way may come into existence over routes if they have been used by the public, as of right (without force, without secrecy and without permission) and without interruption for at least 20 years. If routes have been used by the public for less than 20 years, then public rights may still come into existence under common law.
Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 provides a way which landowners, tenants for life and trustees can protect their land from public rights of way coming into existence across it as a result of public use. It requires the deposit of a map and statement with the County Council outlining the extent of the land in their ownership and showing those public rights of way and highways which cross it. This may from the date of deposit, protect the landowner from any other routes being claimed as public rights of way by presumed dedication across their land. In order to retain this protection, a landowner must then deposit a statutory declaration with the County Council within 10 years of an initial deposit of a map and statement or any subsequent statutory declaration.
The County Council’s guidance notes for the deposit of maps, statements and statutory declarations, which provide information on the process, can be downloaded from this webpage. The guidance notes also provide examples of the format a statement and statutory declaration may take, which you may find useful when preparing your own deposits.