‚ÄčThe National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949

The 1949 Act required all County Councils to register routes (mainly in the countryside) that had acquired public status. The register was to be known as the 'Definitive Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way'.

The Act required that every route should be recorded as either a 'public footpath', a 'public bridleway', or a 'road used as a public path'. Routes with the status 'public footpath' or 'public bridleway' reflected the rights that the public had acquired over them. However, the third status, known as RUPP's, had a vague definition. Section 27(6) of the 1949 Act defined an RUPP as:

'a highway, other than a public path, used by the public mainly for the purposes for which footpaths or bridleways are so used'

Section 32(4) of the 1949 Act said that once the Definitive Map and Statement had been prepared, what was shown on it was conclusive evidence as follows:

(a) where the map shows a footpath, the map shall be conclusive evidence that there was at the relevant date specified in the statement a footpath as shown on the map

(b) where the map shows a bridleway, or a road used as a public footpath, the map shall be conclusive evidence that there was at the said date a right of way on foot and a right of way on horseback or leading a horse, so however that this paragraph shall be without prejudice to any question whether the public had at that date any right of way other than the rights aforesaid'

It was therefore clear from the beginning that RUPP's had at least bridleway rights. This view was later confirmed by the Court of Appeal in 'R v Secretary of State for the Environment ex parte Hood (1975)' followed by Department of the Environment Circular 123/1977. What was not clear was which routes carried vehicular rights. This was because the 1949 Act did not require an investigation of such rights.

When the Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way was prepared in the 1950's, some 700 routes were claimed and registered with the status 'road used as public path'. These were routes that appeared to have some element of vehicular use, but it was not known whether that use was by private owners, or by the public. The Courts later confirmed that all RUPP's had at least bridleway rights.

Later legislation requires that all RUPP's be reclassified to byways if they did indeed have public vehicular rights. In 1991, the former Dyfed County Council began the review of RUPP's in Ceredigion. After consultations and research, some 41 were found to have public vehicular rights. The County Council then made and published 70 Reclassification Orders. Within the Orders 41 RUPP's were reclassified to byways, 656 were reclassified to bridleways, and 5 were reclassified to footpaths. For those shown as bridleways, it was, in effect a 'no change' situation, because RUPP's and bridleways have the same rights.

Almost half of the reclassifications were then subject to statutory objections. Most had misunderstood the situation, and considered that new rights were being created. This was not the case.

Cyngor Sir Ceredigion took over the review in 1996. Very little progress has been made in the ensuing 14 years. Since 1996, the County Council have negotiated the withdrawal of just 37 of the 463 objections, and have referred only 7 RUPP's subject to objections to the WAG.

A Schedule for the Case Files, a Schedule for the RUPP's involved in the review, and a Schedule for the objections, have been created. These Schedules are now being continually updated.

At January 2010, there are some 273 RUPP's with outstanding objections from about 250 people or groups. In total, there are 426 individual objections. These include 125 objections from vehicular users, about 290 from affected owners, and 11 objections from Community Councils. All of these have a statutory right to be heard if they do not withdraw their objection. The vast majority of the objectors raise issues that are not relevant to the reclassification process.