Landowner and occupier responsibilities
Please see the guide 'A Guide for Farmers and Landowners' (PDF) which is Bedford Borough Council's protocols regarding issues commonly associated with Public Rights of Way. The aim is to help understand some of the legislation which applies and how the Council is obliged to apply them to various issues.
A right of way gives users a right to pass and re-pass along a route and to deviate around any obstruction they may come across. Any other use on private land may be trespass unless you have the permission of the landowner or some other right to be there. Users of rights of way should follow the Countryside Code that reads as follows:
- Be safe - plan ahead and follow any signs
- Leave gates and property as you find them
- Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home
- Keep dogs under close control
- Consider other people
- Walkers should be prepared to wear boots or wellingtons in poor weather as paths can become very muddy.
The Borough Council's responsibilities
Maintaining path surfaces, including controlling natural vegetation and keeping them free of obstructions.
This Council carries out an annual clearance programme for many field-edge paths.
Signposting paths where they leave a metalled road and also waymarking where they are difficult to follow.
Installing and maintaining bridges over natural watercourses, such as streams and ditches.
Many Acts of Parliament cover rights of way but the principal one is the Highways Act – drawn up in 1959 and updated in 1980. Public rights of way are effectively minor highways and the legislation mainly relates to obstructions, and failure to maintain. Legislation also exists to protect the public from such issues as misleading signs, dangerous animals and intimidation.
The Borough Council also has responsibilities relating to planning, dog fouling, fly tipping and litter under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Landowners are responsible for removing litter from their own property whoever put it there.
The Borough Council is responsible for administering planning applications. From 6 April 2008 there will be a mandatory standard planning application form and associated information requirements. The application form will require applicants to provide details of public rights of way to ensure they are considered at the start of the planning process and allow the planning authority to assess whether a proposal might impact on public rights of way.
Parish Councils can also get involved in the maintenance of and improvements to the rights of way in their parish.