General info > Blocked paths > PROW

Public rights of way and the law

The law requires that public rights of way (PROWs) should be available for the public to use without hindrance, and it requires local authorities to ensure that this unhindered passage is maintained. In practice the responsibility for carrying out the practical work to remedy a problem sometimes falls on the landowner and sometimes on the local authority. If a landowner fails to carry out his responsibilities, it is the duty of the local authority to enforce the landowner’s compliance with the law.

The kinds of problem which the local authority is required to tackle include:

• Ensuring that stiles, kissing gates, etc are sited where a fence or hedge crosses a PROW, and that these are maintained in a safe and useable condition.

• Ensuring that PROWs are maintained at the statutory minimum width [for a footpath, 1 metre (cross-field) and 1.5 metres (field-edge) and for a bridleway 2 metres (cross-field) and 3 metres (field-edge)].

• Enforcing the reinstatement by the farmer of a cross-field path after ploughing.

• The cutting of undergrowth on a PROW in spring or summer.

• The placing of a fingerpost or waymark at a point where a PROW joins a highway. And there are many other duties.

Among the things which a local authority is not responsible for are:

• Waymarking anywhere on the line of a PROW other than at its junction with a highway.

• Dealing with muddy ground.

Traditionally it was county councils who held these responsibilities, but more recently they have been taken on by some (but not all) Metropolitan Boroughs, Unitary Authorities and National Parks for their areas. Thus, it is sometimes a little difficult to be sure who is the PROW authority for any particular location.

Please contact the local town or borough council for any issues encountered. They should refer you to the correct department or pass your report to the relevant authority. Scotland has no PROWs as such; the whole of Scotland has a right of access with the exception of some areas of private land such as the gardens of houses, but not necessarily large private estates. In order to resist losing the use of PROWs, it is deeply important that we always report any transgressions which we come across to the relevant PROW authority.

Adrian Perkins