We have seen an increase in the number of claims for new public rights of way based on historical evidence over recent months. Both the Ramblers Association, the British Horse Society (BHS) and other rights of way groups are encouraging members to identify previously unrecorded public rights of way. These routes will then be submitted to the relevant local authorities as Definitive Map Modification Order applications in the hope that they will be permanently added as public rights of way.
A deadline of 1st January 2026 has been set as the date by which any public rights of way which have not been formally registered on the Definitive Map will be lost and this has led to the recent increase in claims.
Members of the public can make claims to their local authority for a route to be recorded as a public right of way if there is evidence that a route existed historically. A claimant must provide evidence, usually historic maps, to prove their claim. This can apply if the route is no longer used by the public or even if the route itself no longer exists on the ground.
This project could potentially have a significant impact on landowners as the BHS are looking at hundreds of unrecorded routes. If their applications to modify the Definitive Map are successful, there will be many new registered public rights of way crossing landowners’ property.
How to object
Landowners looking to object to claims made will need to be able to demonstrate that the historic evidence produced by the claimant is inaccurate or unreliable. Alternatively, landowners can produce their own evidence showing that a route was not historically a right of way. There are deadlines for submitting objections and it is important that these are adhered to.
Whilst a deposit under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 is something we recommend for clients to prevent claims for new rights of way by the public using them continuously for at least 20 years, such a deposit cannot protect land from claims for historic routes.
For more information or to find out how our Rural Property & Business department can help you please contact 01234 352201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org