When the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 was being haggled over, land-owners wanted clarity about footpaths on their land and the Government agreed that the official record of footpaths and bridleways should be closed to new applications based on historical evidence. Back in 2000, the cut-off date of 2025 seemed a safe distance in the future but, as time ticks by at sixty seconds to the minute, it is close and getting closer.
So, if you are aware of a path that you think may not be safeguarded on the Definitive Map (the legal source of the red or green dots and dashes on our OS maps), it is high time to do some research. You could start by looking at an old OS map for your area and checking the local paths against the map as a guide for further research. What is then needed is historic documents to show that the path has been established as a right of the way: you may need help from a historical research enthusiast.
In Bristol, there has so far been one claim. Despite appearing to be a simple “open and shut” case, it is only now approaching sign-off after two years or so of negotiation with the Council’s legal department.
Consider how many other routes may be missing from the official record and how long it may take to process a complicated claim. For it to be accepted by 2025, the earlier the better for claims to be on the waiting list.
To clarify: this is not an invitation to compile a wish-list of new paths, or for claims arising from 20 years’ usage – other political procedures are available to get Rights of Ways created. This is simply the last chance to record existing public rights on the strength of historic maps and other documents.