The Definitive Map / Public Right of Way Registers
Public Rights of Way are recorded on the Definitive Map which the County Council is legally obliged to maintain and update. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 requires local authorities to maintain registers relating to public rights of way applications, declarations and associated documents.
The Definitive Map
The recording of a route on the Definitive Map is conclusive evidence in law of the status, position and existence of the public right of way.
However, there may also be public rights of way in existence which are unrecorded. In these cases, determining the nature of these rights is a matter of evidence. Evidence of public rights may come from historical documents and/or from a continuous period of public use.
The Definitive Map is held at Neuadd Cyngor, Ceredigion, Penmorfa, Aberaeron.
There are over 2500 km of rights of way in Ceredigion. They fall within the following categories:
Public Footpath :
The public has the right to pass and repass on foot and it is generally held that they may take a usual accompaniment such as a pram, pushchair or dog.
The public has the right to pass and repass on foot, on horseback and on pedal cycle.
The public has the right to pass and repass on foot, on horseback and on non-mechanically propelled vehicles.
Byway Open to all Traffic (BOAT):
The public has the right to pass and repass on foot, horseback, pedal cycle and in a vehicle but the route is used mainly by pedestrians and/or horses.
Note: this information is for guidance only and does not provide a definitive guide to the law.
Public Rights Of Way Registers
Public Path Orders
Public Rights of Ways can be diverted, stopped up and created but this must be done by means of a strict legal procedure.
There are two Acts that are used to make such changes to the network:-
1. Highways Act 1980 – to divert, stop up and create rights of way where it is considered to be in the interest of the owner, lessee or occupier of land crossed by the path and /or the general public.
2. Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to divert and stop up footpaths and bridleways affected by development.
Members of the public can apply to the County Council for a Public Path Order on land in their ownership or with the written consent of any affected landowner/s. Applicants should note however that the procedure for processing applications is lengthy, taking an absolute minimum of 6 months, with no guarantee of eventual success.
All applications will be assessed to see if they comply with the legislative criteria, and are then subjected to a period of consultation before they can be formally considered. There is currently a standard charge of £1,600. If you would like more information on this matter please contact the Definitive Map Assistant on 01545 57 2315.
Definitive Map Modification Orders
Anyone may challenge the accuracy of the legal record provided by the Definitive Map through an application for a "Modification Order", under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
This may be to correct an omission of a path by adding it to the record, or deleting a path that was recorded in error. Applications may also upgrade or downgrade the recorded status of a path, or amend any other details in the legal record, such as those recorded in the Definitive Statement.
A Modification Order requires good evidence of an error to be provided, either by submitting statements from path users or others with local knowledge, or through the research of historical documents and maps, or a combination of both. The process is often very time-consuming and difficult, with no guarantee of success sometimes resulting in a public inquiry.
It is strongly recommended that anyone considering such an application should contact the Rights of Way (Definitive Map) Officer on 01545 57 2316, to discuss the procedure and likely timescale.
Statutory Declarations and Plans made under Section 31(6) Highways Act 1980
This legal provision allows landowners to deposit evidence, with the County Council, of their intention NOT to dedicate any new public rights of way over their land holdings. The result of this is to negate any future Modification Order claims for "deemed dedication" of additional paths, based on user evidence post-dating the deposition. However, it cannot negate evidence pre-dating the deposition.
The deposit initially takes the form of:
(i) a plan of the land holding, showing its location and boundaries and any existing public ways (whether currently recorded on the Definitive Map or not), together with
(ii) a signed statement declaring that the landowner has no intention to dedicate further public paths. This must be followed by a Statutory Declaration to the same effect within 6 years and at 10-yearly intervals thereafter.
Forms and information are available from the Coast & Countryside Section, to enable landowners to submit depositions. Please contact the Rights of Way Officer on 01545 57 2316 for details.
As with the Definitive Maps, the Section 31(6) deposits may be viewed by the public in normal office hours; although you are advised to contact Coast & Countryside before hand (on 01545 57 2316) to ensure that an Officer is available to help you with your enquiry.