Rights of way law in England and Wales

Basics of rights of way law

We answer frequently-asked questions about rights of way law in England and Wales, from who owns paths to what constitutes an obstruction.

Rights of way and development

Plans to build on land which is crossed by public rights of way often cause concern because of fears that the paths will be lost or changed beyond recognition. But there are legal procedures which apply when rights of way are affected by development.

Changes to the path network

The public rights of way network is constantly changing. Every year hundreds of paths are diverted or closed. Sometimes, more rarely, new paths are created. But it's important to note that changes can be brought about only as the result of a procedure in which a legal order to bring about the change is made.

Animals and rights of way

We expect to encounter animals when walking in rural areas however very occasionally people are afraid to use paths because of the presence of an animal and in rare cases may have even been attacked. Even if they don’t cause us harm, animals can still prevent us from using and enjoying rights of way. We explain the law and give some guidance on dealing with problem animals.

Common law dedication

Where there’s been less than 20 years’ use by the public, or where the path in question crosses Crown land, it may possible to claim a right of way using common law.

Definitive maps explained

How do you know if a path is a right of way? And how can you prove it when it is? Find out the part played by definitive maps.

Introduction to public paths

Public rights of way – footpaths, bridleways, and byways – are all ‘highways’ in law. This means they get the same protection from the law as a road does.

Signposts, waymarks and unauthorised notices

Signposts, waymarks and unauthorised notices explained, plus who's responsible for erecting and maintaining them and other rules.

The definitive guide to rights of way law

We publish the definitive guide to rights of way law in England and Wales, also known as the 'Blue Book'

Traffic Regulation Orders

A Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) is a legal tool which allows a local authority, or a national park authority, to restrict, regulate or prevent the use of any named road. The word ‘road’ includes footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic (BOAT), and the word ‘traffic’ includes cyclists and walkers.