Q: What is a public right of way?

A: A way over which the public have a right to pass and repass. The route may be used on foot, on (or leading) a horse, on a pedal cycle or with a motor vehicle, depending on its status. Although the land may be owned by a private individual, the public may still gain access across that land along a specific route. Public rights of way are all highways in law. They are recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement. This is a minimum record and a way may still be a public right of way even if it is not recorded.

Q: What is a public footpath?

A: A right of way for walkers. A walker includes a person who uses manual or powered mobility aids such as a wheelchair or scooter. Signed with yellow waymarks and a walking person.

Q: What is a public bridleway?

A: A right of way for: walkers (a walker includes a person using manual or powered mobility aids, for example wheelchair or scooter), horse riders (including the right to lead horses) and cyclists - who must give way to other users. Indicated by blue arrow and horse and rider and cyclist sign.

Q: What is a restricted byway?

A: A right of way for: walkers (a walker includes a person using manual or powered mobility aids e.g. wheelchair or scooter), horse riders (including the right to lead horses), cyclists - who must give way to other users and horse-drawn vehicles. Restricted byways are a new category of Right of Way created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000. Defra publish an informative book on how restricted byways came about and how the law was changed. Green arrow with horse, walker, cyclist and horse drawn carriage.

Q: What is a byway open to all traffic (BOAT)?

A: A byway open to all traffic is mainly used for the purposes that footpaths and bridleways are used, but it may also be used by vehicles. A right of way for: walkers (a walker includes a person using manual or powered mobility aids e.g. wheelchair or scooter), horse riders (including the right to lead horses), cyclists - who must give way to other users, horse-drawn vehicles, motorised vehicles (e.g. cars, motorbikes)

Q: What is a permissive path?

A: These are paths which a landowner has granted a specific agreement for the public to use.

Q: What are 'green lanes'?

A: This term has no legal meaning, but is used as a physical description of lanes that are vegetated underfoot or enclosed by hedges hence the 'green'. However, any individual 'green lane' might be a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway, byway or road; or it may be private with no public right of access.

Q: What is a private right of way?

A: A private right of way is one limited to an individual or group, and usually connected with land holdings, when it may also be called an easement. It allows landowners and occupiers to get access to their land across land that is not in their own ownership. A public right of way may be used by everyone. The two often coincide; such as on farm access roads, when holders of the private right must not infringe the public right. Public rights of way officers do not deal with private rights unless there is some conflict with a public right, otherwise queries about private rights should be addressed to a solicitor as it is a private issue rather than public issue.

Q: If a private right of way exists across our land, does this mean that a public right of way cannot exist along the same line?

A: The existence of a private right of way does not automatically or usually preclude the existence of a public right of way, so the short answer is 'no'; there are many examples of routes where private rights of way and public rights of way co-exist. In certain circumstances the existence of a private right of way might make it harder (but not impossible) for public rights to arise, but these circumstances are fairly rare.

Q: Who owns a public right of way?

A: Most public rights of way run over private land and therefore are not owned by the Council. The maintenance of the surface of the path is usually the responsibility of the Council. 

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