Farmers and landowners whose land has been entered onto their area’s Definitive Map are being encouraged to lodge a notice under Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980 which will stop the creation of any new routes.
Lawyer Helen Gough, who specialises in agriculture and rural affairs at MFG Solicitors, said any registered right of way could affect future planning applications.
She said: “Section 31 is a simple but vital method available to a landowner who wants to protect their property from becoming subject to a public right of way - but it is still surprising that many fail to ensure they are giving their land the protection it needs.
“Notices lodged after October 1, 2013 protect land for 20 years, however those lodged prior to that are still subject to the ‘10-year renewal process’, so I have been urging landowners to check dates and ensure they are covered.
“Failure to renew the application means that landowners are once again exposed to the potential threat of an application for a public right of way to be registered across their land on the Definitive Map.”
In order to complete the process an applicant will need to deposit a suitable map and lodge a statement or a declaration with their local council to prevent a new right of way being acknowledged.
Although Section 31 will prevent new rights of way being created, it will not remove existing routes or eradicate those which may have already been established by past use.
Miss Gough added: “People have to be left in no uncertainty that land is privately owned property with signs clearly stating that there is to be no unauthorised access.
“But the most important thing is to not delay, get the S31 Notice lodged, and check that older notices are not about to lapse, especially if landowners are looking at development plans as a right of way would severely hinder those.”