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Public rights of way

If you have a complaint about a Public Rights of Way, then please use the information below to find out who you should contact.

The following has no legal status, and is merely intended as a guide.

Rights of way are classified according to the nature of the public's rights along them. There are four categories of Public Right Of Way:

  • Public footpaths - for walkers only. You are allowed to take a pram, pushchair or wheelchair along any public footpath - but be aware that many paths, particularly in the countryside, may not be physically suitable for them. Public footpaths are often way marked with yellow arrows.
  • Bridle ways - for walkers, horse riders and cyclists. Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders.
    Bridle ways are often way marked with blue arrows.
  • 'Byways Open to All Traffic' ('BOATs') - as the name suggests, these routes are for walkers, horse riders, cyclists and vehicles - including horse-drawn carriages, motorcycles and other motor vehicles. BOATs are sometimes way marked with red arrows.
  • 'Restricted Byways'. These are for walkers, horse riders, cyclists and horse-drawn vehicles only. 

The Definitive Map

The Definitive Map is actually many separate maps that show the routes of individual public footpaths, bridle ways, 'BOATs' and Restricted Byways recorded in the area. These maps, together with the Definitive Statements for each route, are the legal record of the public's rights along them. The Definitive Statement for each right of way describes the route and any restrictions on its use.

The appearance of a path on the Definitive Map is conclusive proof of its existence in law. However the reverse is not true. The fact that a right of way is not recorded on the map, along a particular route, is not evidence that there is no right of way along that route. Similarly, higher rights, such as bridle rights, may exist along a route shown only as a public footpath.

Derbyshire County Council is legally obliged to protect and assert your rights to use the rights of way network and to update the Definitive Map and Statement (the legal record of rights of way for the County). If you have any queries relating to the Definitive Map - contact Derbyshire County Council’s Rights of Way Team tel: 01629 533262 or 081629 533190.

Not all footpaths are rights of way

There are many paths that the public is able to use but that are not legally rights of way and do not enjoy the same protection. Paths crossing public parks and open spaces, commons and other sites to which the public has formal or de facto access may not necessarily be rights of way, though some of them are.

Other paths, known as permissive routes, are open to the public because the owner has given permission for them to be used - often there is a notice on the path making clear the owner has no intention of dedicating the path as a right of way, and reserving the right to withdraw the permission. These paths are sometimes closed for one day a year, with a view to preventing claims that they are rights of way.

Towpaths, paths across land owned by organisations such as the Forestry Commission, Severn Trent Water and the National Trust that have a policy of providing access, together with off-road multi-user routes such as those created as part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network, are available for public use but may not be rights of way.

Ownership of rights of way

Derbyshire County Council, as the highway authority, owns the surface of all Public Rights Of Way - the landowner's interest only extends to the sub soil. It is an offence to interfere with the surface of a Public Right Of Way to the detriment of users and the county council has a duty to protect the interests of users and the Public Right Of Way.

Is it a Public Rights Of Way matter?

The fact that a problem occurs on a Public Right Of Way does not necessarily mean that it is a rights of way issue. Litter or fly tipping, for example, should be reported in the normal way to the responsible organisation – typical problems include:

  • Collection and removal of litter, dog mess, evidence of substance misuse - contact our Clean Team tel: 0800 587 2349 or the landowner if the problem is on private land.
  • Abandoned vehicle - use our abandoned vehicle report form or call our Environmental Health Department, tel: 01283 595724 / 595890.
  • Fly-tipping - use our fly-tipping report form or call our hotline tel: 0800 587 2349.
  • A dangerous/threatening/intimidating animal/person/behaviour, such as a bull in a field crossed by a footpath or inappropriate use of a firearm - contact the landowner, if appropriate, or Derbyshire Police Non-Emergency Number tel: 101.
  • Travellers/gypsies - we do not have a duty to move gypsies/travellers when they are camped without the landowner's permission on private land. If travellers are camped on council land, we can evict them. If they are on private land, usually it is the landowner's responsibility. For further advice contact the Derbyshire County Council Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer tel: 01629 585566.
  • Issues arising from a new development/building works/granting of planning permission - contact South Derbyshire District Council Planning Enforcement tel: 01283 228706.
  • Establishing land ownership - to confirm if land is owned by South Derbyshire District Council contact Finance and Property Services tel: 01283 22 8701. To find out if land or property is owned by Derbyshire County Council contact the Estates Section tel: 01629 536295 More generally land ownership can be traced through the Land Registry tel: 0115 935 1166.
  • Dead, injured, abused, neglected or distressed animals/livestock - contact Derbyshire County Council Trading Standards (Animal Health Enforcement) tel: 01629 585988.

Is it a highways issue?

Derbyshire County Council, as the local highways authority, is responsible for the highways and adjacent pavements. Highways issues can include potholes or other defects on roads, pavements, footpaths and cycle -ways. Broadly, if a route has drains and street lighting then it is likely to be a highway, rather than a Public Right Of Way. Highways issues may involve:

  • road signs
  • road markings
  • surface water drainage
  • fallen trees
  • street lamps
  • illuminated traffic signs.

To report a highways issue, contact Derbyshire County Council:

Report street lighting tel: 01629 533190
Report other roads and traffic issues tel: 01629 533190.

  • Obstructed pavements - Derbyshire County Council is committed to keeping its pavements free of obstruction or nuisance to its users caused by, for example, overhanging tree branches and hedges or building materials blocking the pavement. To report a problem contact Derbyshire County Council Environmental Services tel: 01629 537188).
  • Verges - grass cutting and obstructions - In most cases the grass verges beside roads and footways - up to the boundary wall, hedge or fence - are part of the public highway. South Derbyshire District Council is required to keep verges safe and unobstructed, including cutting the grass. Contact South Derbyshire District Council Grounds and Facilities tel: 01283 595782).

Derbyshire County Council is also responsible for some aspects of Public Rights of Way maintenance:

In South Derbyshire, their specific responsibilities include:

  • Signing - All aspects of signing, including fingerposts and way marks (disks showing directional arrows) – their erection, replacement and repair. This includes signposting footpaths, bridle ways and byways where they leave the metalled road and way marking paths to help users find their way.
  • Bridges and structures - The erection, repair or replacement of most bridges and structures on rights of way, including steps, handrails and culverts.;
  • keeping rights of way clear of undergrowth (vegetation growing in the surface of the path)
  • assisting farmers and landowners with the maintenance of stiles and gates

If you have an enquiry about a promoted route, signing, bridges and structures, access for people with disabilities or a general enquiry about rights of way, contact Derbyshire County Council’s Rights of Way Team tel: 01629 533262 or use their online reporting form

It is the responsibility of landowners to:

  • keep rights of way on their land clear of overgrowth – plants growing across the path from beside it (for example, hedge outgrowth across a path)
  • maintain any stiles and gates which are needed on the path
  • keep the path free from obstruction – including growing crops, fallen trees and branches
  • not plough field edge paths, or any byway

If you come across any problems relating to the following – please report full details by email to Derbyshire County Council's Public Rights of Way Team on esprow@derbyshire.gov.uk .

  • undergrowth obstructing a path
  • damaged stiles or gates
  • overhanging vegetation
  • an obstruction or a dangerous structure (if the structure is part of a council house contact South Derbyshire District Council's Housing Service or tel: 01283 595809/08)
  • barbed wire/electric fences across or adjacent to a right of way
  • unfenced dangers on land adjoining a right of way which present hazards to path users
  • ploughing or cropping obstructing a path
  • fallen tree obstructing a path.

Please note, these responsibilities relate only to designated Public Rights Of Way and not to other informal footpaths or permissive routes not shown on the Definitive Map.

Other Public Right of Way matters

  • For financial matters relating to ‘Minor Maintenance Agreements’ with Parish Councils under the ‘Minor Maintenance Scheme’, contact South Derbyshire District Council's Financial Services tel: 01283 59 5901.
  • For information about walking in South Derbyshire , including maps and walks leaflets.
  • For information about the Derby and Derbyshire Local Access Forumwhich has an advisory role in strategic access and recreation issues.

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