The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 placed a duty on local authorities to produce a Definitive Map and Statement of public rights of way in their area.
The Definitive Map and Statement of public rights of way in Bath and North East Somerset has a 'Relevant Date' of 1956 and it was produced following extensive public consultation during which time all landowners and members of the public had the opportunity to object to either the inclusion or exclusion of a route. Once a public right of way has been shown to exist, it will continue to exist in perpetuity irrespective of how often it is used.
A public right of way will only cease to exist when it has been stopped up or diverted by a legal order or a magistrate. The Definitive Map shows the alignment of public rights of way transposed onto a map and the Definitive Statement provides a written description of the public rights of way with details such as their width and any limitations.
The Definitive Map and Statement is the legal record of public rights of way and section 56(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that the Definitive Map and Statement is legally conclusive proof of the existence of the recorded rights, but without prejudice to additional unrecorded rights.
The City of Bath was an 'excluded area' under the 1949 Act and the public rights of way within the city were not recorded at the time. The Council is currently undertaking a project to produce a Definitive Map and Statement for the City of Bath.