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ARCHIVE: Definitive maps and statements

Surveying authorities (usually county councils or unitary authorities) are required to produce a definitive map and statement showing the rights of way that exist in their area. They have a duty to keep these maps up to date and to investigate any evidence that suggests a way has been left off the map in error, has been recorded incorrectly, or was included on the map in error.

Modifying a definitive map or statement

Anyone may make an application to their surveying authority to modify the definitive map or statement. A mapOnce an authority has received an application they have a duty to consider whether to make an order to modify the map or statement.

If they fail to make this decision within twelve months, the applicant may request the Secretary of State to direct the authority to make the order within a prescribed time. If the authority decides there is insufficient evidence to justify an order to modify the map, the applicant may appeal to the Secretary of State. In either case, the Defra National Rights of Way Casework Team (at the Government Office for the North East) considers the request or appeal on behalf of the Secretary of State.

What happens when an authority makes an order?

Where an authority makes an order, it enters into a process of public consultation. This involves notifying landowners and prescribed organisations (such as the Ramblers’ Association, British Horse Society, Byways and Bridleways Trust and the British Driving Society) as well as placing a notice on the route and in a local newspaper. The order will contain a plan and a description of the way so that the effect of the claim, if confirmed, will have. Defra guidance (PDF 73 KB) is provided on the specification of width in orders. Once the consultation period is over the authority may confirm the order themselves or, if there have been representations or objections, they must submit the order to the Secretary of State.

In the case where representations or objections are received, it is the Planning Inspectorate that carries out the Secretary of State’s role and a public inquiry will normally be held so that an Inspector may consider the arguments for and against the order. The Inspector then has the choice of confirming the order as made by the local authority, confirming the order with modifications, or not confirming the order. If modifications are made that change the overall effect of the order then a new round of public consultation is required, which may lead to a further public inquiry.

Register of applications and declarations

All Surveying Authorities are required to keep a register of applications to modify the definitive map and statement - Guidance for the Register of Definitive Map Modifications (PDF 58 KB). They are also required to keep a register of declarations lodged and maps and statements deposited under section 31(6) of the 1980 Act. These declarations and statements enable landowners to formally acknowledge public rights of way across their land and, in doing so, create a presumption that they have no intention to dedicate any further routes across their land - Guidance for the Register of Highway Act Declarations (PDF 66 KB)

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides for a cut-off date, of 1 January 2026, after which rights of way already in existence on 1 January 1949 and not shown on the definitive map and statement by 2026 will be extinguished. Following a review of the Discovering Lost Ways project, which aimed to research and record these historic rights of way before the cut-off date, Natural England have set up a stakeholder working group to examine whether a different approach to completion of definitive map and statement should be adopted. Defra has confirmed that the cut-off date legislation will not be implemented until the stakeholder working group has reported on its conclusions.

Combined orders and the power to include modifications in other orders

On October 1 2010 the the Public Rights of Way (Combined Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 2010 No. 2127) came into force.

The Combined Orders Regulations enable local authorities to make a change to the network and the consequential modification of the map and statement in a single order, although authorities may continue to make separate orders if they wish to. Guidance is available through the following link.

Page last modified: 14 October 2010
Page published: 23 October 2008