Bath and North East Somerset Council have discretionary powers under the Highways Act 1980 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to divert or extinguish public rights of way by means of Public Path Orders (“PPO”).  The information below is intended to provide an overview of the process involved in creating, diverting and extinguishing public rights of way. 
 

Legislation and Policy

Any application for a PPO must meet the tests laid out in the relevant legislation.  The legislation can be summarised as follows:

i) A path can be extinguished under section 118 of the Highways Act 1980 only if it can be shown that it is no longer needed for public use.

ii) A path can be diverted under section 119 of the Highways Act 1980 if it can be shown to be in the interests of the landowner, lessee, occupier or public.
 
iii) A path can be diverted or stopped up under section 257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in order to allow development to take place.
 
The legislation contains other legal tests which must also be met and taken into consideration.  The Authority will also consider any application in relation to its PPO Policy.  The Policy identifies a number of additional criteria against which any application will be judged.  These include, connectivity, safety, equalities impact, status, gaps & gates, width, gradients. features of interest and maintenance.
 

Process 

Applications are ordinarily dealt with in chronological order of receipt and the process of diverting rights of way is both lengthy and complex; a flowchart explains the process.  The Authority will carry out an informal consultation and decide whether an order should be made.  If an order is made it will be advertised and any member of the public can formally object.  If no objections are received, the Authority can confirm the Order and it will come into effect.  If objections are received, the Authority will decide whether to abandon the Order or submit it for determination by the Secretary of State.  If the Authority decides to pursue the latter course of action, an Inspector acting on behalf of the Secretary of State will hold a Public Inquiry or Hearing or consider the Order through Written Representations and decide whether the Order should be confirmed.
 
As a general estimation of timescales, the time period from the start of processing to the confirmation of an order is likely to be at least eight months and may be considerably longer.  It should not be underestimated how long it can take to achieve consensus.  If there are objections and agreement cannot be reached it can take several years. 
 

Cost

The total administrative cost of successfully applying to divert a public right of way is £3,400.  The first £700 is payable at the time of applying and if the Authority decides to make an order then the remaining £2,700 is payable at that time.  As detailed above, this is a complex legal process and the fee reflects the costs incurred by the Authority which include newspaper notices, officer time, legal expenses and site visits. 
Additionally, you will be responsible for any compensation which may become payable as a result of the Order and any costs incurred in bringing the new path into a suitable condition.  Prior to a decision being made by the Authority, as to whether an order should be made, you will be required to enter into an agreement with the Authority regarding what works are necessary. 
 

Additional Considerations

It should be noted that no authority for the extinguishment or diversion of a highway is conferred unless and until a Public Path Extinguishment or Diversion Order has been made, confirmed and come into effect.  Any preliminary obstruction of, or interference with, the highway concerned may not only be an offence, but may make it impossible to proceed with the making of an order.
 
If other landowners are affected by the proposals you should obtain written confirmation that they have no objections to the proposals including any requirements relating to the provision of gaps or gates in any boundaries.
 
This page provides only an outline of the issues regarding diverting a public right of way; however. further information can be obtained by contacting the Public Rights of Way team or by reading Natural England’s ‘Guide to definitive maps and changes to public rights of way’.  The Authority's Public Path Order Application Pack contains further information about the process and a copy of the application form which will need to be completed.  However, the Authority strongly recommends applicant to first contact the Public Rights of Way Team to discuss any proposals on 01225 477532 or by emailing prow@bathnes.gov.uk prior to submitting an application.
 

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