Public rights of way can be added to the network and existing public rights of way can be diverted or extinguished (removed from the definitive map). All changes require a legal process. When a legal order is made it must be advertised and there is a public objection period. Orders do not come into effect unless they are subsequently confirmed.
Suffolk County Council and your local district or borough council have powers to make changes to the public rights of way network in a variety of ways:
- Definitive map modification orders
- Public path orders
- Creation agreements
Most of the orders are made by district and borough councils and are funded by the applicants. You can find detailed information about changing the definitive map in Natural England's A guide to definitive maps and changes to public rights of way (PDF, 145KB).
Prioritising definitive map order making
We are unable to start work immediately on every application that we receive so we have a scheme for prioritising definitive map cases.
Potential cases are scored against a set of criteria and given a priority ranking according to the number of points scored. The criteria are defined on the priority criteria for definitive map case work scoring sheet (PDF, 18KB), which sets out scoring guidelines with examples of high, medium and low scores. Where the County Council is required to make an order to facilitate development, or a highway improvement scheme, these cases will not be subject to scoring.
Each criterion is scored out of 10 and will be assessed independently, without consideration as to how it might be affected by any other criteria. Weightings have been applied to reflect the relative importance of certain criteria. The overall effectiveness of the criteria will be kept under review.
New cases will be considered 6 times a year, although in exceptional circumstances an urgent case may be considered more quickly.
Following prioritisation, applicants or interested parties will be contacted and informed of the priority assigned to their case and the anticipated timescale for action.
High priority cases will be progressed as soon as resource is available, with the expectation that this will be within 2 years. Medium priority cases will be progressed within 2 to 5 years, and low priority cases are likely to take over 5 years.
These timescales will be kept under review and may be adjusted according to officer availability. We will give priority to cases where we are directed to determine an application by the Secretary of State.
Definitive map modification orders (DMMO)
There may be unrecorded public rights of way whose legal status can only be determined by evidence. That evidence can come from historical documents and/or from the public making statements that they have been using the route unobstructed without the need for permission for an uninterrupted period of 20 years or more.
Anyone can make a formal application to the County Council for a route that they believe to be a public right of way to be added to the definitive map using a DMMO under section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A DMMO can be used to modify the definitive map and statement, just the definitive map, or just the definitive statement alone. An application can only succeed if there is sufficient evidence to support the existence of public rights.
It is also possible to make an application to delete or amend a public right of way recorded on the definitive map and statement. In this situation the onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient evidence to show that the definitive map is incorrect.
The County Council is required to maintain a register of applications for a DMMO. The register includes application that are yet to be decided and applications which have already been investigated and a decision reached as to whether an order should be made or not. Where the decision is to make an order, the register will show whether or not that order is confirmed. Where the County Council has rejected an application, the register will show the outcome of any appeal against that decision. The documents on the register may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.
The DMMO register aims to:
- increase the knowledge among landowners, users and the general public about applications which could result in changes to the definitive map
- avoid duplication where more than one person may be thinking of applying to an authority for a change to the definitive map
- increase certainty by making sure that people know about ways which landowners do not intend to dedicate as public rights of way
Find out how to make a formal claim for a DMMO.
If you are a landowner and you want to protect your property against a possible future application for a public right of way based on public use, you can find information about submitting a landowner deposit.
Public path orders (PPOs)
In Suffolk applications for public path orders are usually dealt with by district and borough councils.
There is no guarantee that an application for a PPO will be successful. Councils will carry out informal consultations on proposals with the appropriate town/parish councils, representatives of users groups such as The Ramblers, the Open Spaces Society and the British Horse Society, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and local district and county councillors. Both The Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society have a policy of objecting to PPOs unless a clear public benefit can be shown.
Initial proposals are often amended at the consultation stage, and suggestions made by consultees can help achieve a successful outcome. Councils are keen to encourage applicants and consultees to reach agreement on proposals wherever possible. If a council makes PPO to which a public objection is received it can only proceed with the order by referring it to the Planning Inspectorate for determination, and this may involve holding a public enquiry.
Costs for PPOs are usually met by the applicant, and will vary depending on the number of paths affected and the complexity of the application. In most cases the applicant will be required to pay administration and advertising charges, along with the costs of any site works needed, such as signposts or bridges.
The most common types of PPO are:
- diversion orders
- extinguishment orders
- stopping up orders
- creation orders
These use a council's powers under section 119 of the Highways Act 1980 to change the route of a public right of way.
Before making a diversion order under section 119, a council needs to:
- be satisfied that it is in the interests of the owner/occupier of the land and/or of the public for the footpath, bridleway or restricted byway to be diverted
- be satisfied that the proposed route will not be substantially less convenient for the public to use than the existing route
- consider the effect of the diversion on public enjoyment of the route as a whole, on other land served by the existing route, and on the land (and any land held with it) where the new route is created
- have due regard to the needs of agriculture (including the breeding or keeping of horses), forestry and the desirability of conserving nature
Councils also have powers to make diversion orders under section 257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. A council can use this power where it is satisfied that it is necessary for a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway to be diverted in order to enable development to be carried out in accordance with planning permission granted by the council. The disadvantage or loss likely to arise to users of the route as a result of the change has to be considered by the council. It should not be assumed that an order will be made simply because planning permission has been granted.
These use a council's powers under section 118 of the Highways Act 1980 to remove a public right of way from the definitive map.
Before making an extinguishment order, a council needs to:
- be satisfied that the footpath, bridleway or restricted byway concerned is not needed for public use
- take into account what the likely use of the footpath, bridleway, or restricted byway would be if an order was not made
- take into account the effect the change would have on the land the route currently crosses
- have due regard to the needs of agriculture (including the breeding and keeping of horses), forestry and the desirability of conserving nature
- disregard any obstruction on the route for the purposes of the order
If an extinguishment order is made at the same time as a creation order, creation agreement, or diversion order, the council can consider the extent to which the creation or diversion would provide an alternative route for the one being extinguished.
In view of The Ramblers' and the Open Spaces Society's policies concerning public benefit, it is difficult for applications for extinguishment orders to succeed unopposed, unless they are accompanied by other applications for diversions or creations that bring public benefit.
Stopping up orders
These also remove a public right of way from the definitive map and use a council's powers under section 257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
Before making a stopping up order, the council needs to:
- be satisfied that it is necessary for the footpath, bridleway or restricted byway to be stopped up in order to enable development to be carried out in accordance with planning permission granted by the council
- consider the disadvantages or loss likely to arise to users of the route as a result of the change
It should not be assumed that an order will be made simply because planning permission has been granted. In view of The Ramblers' and the Open Spaces Society's policies concerning public benefit, it is difficult for applications for stopping up orders to succeed unopposed, unless they are accompanied by other applications for diversions or creations that bring public benefit.
These use a council's powers under section 26 of the Highways Act 1980 and can be used to create a new footpath, bridleway or restricted byway with or without the landowner's consent.
Before making a creation order, the council needs to:
- believe that there is a need for a new public right of way
- be satisfied that it is expedient to create a new footpath, bridleway or restricted byway having regard to the extent to which it would add to the convenience or enjoyment of a substantial section of the public or local residents
- be satisfied that it is expedient to create it having regard to the effect that the creation would have on the rights of those with an interest in the land, taking into account the provisions for compensation
These use a council's powers under section 25 of the Highways Act 1980 and can be used to create a new footpath, bridleway or restricted byway by entering into a legal agreement with the landowner.
A council will require anyone dedicating a new route by a creation agreement to show that they have the power to do so. This usually means supplying proof of ownership of the land in question.
Preparing a new route
If a new route is being created, or an existing route diverted, works on the route on the ground should not normally start until the High Court objection period ends, which is 6 weeks after the order has been confirmed.
Before the order is made, we will prepare a Certificate of Works stating what will be required to bring the new route to the required standard. This will include details such as bridges and surfacing works, and address any request you make for structures along the route. You will be asked how long you need to do the works and will be informed of the appropriate date to start. If you do not complete the work within the agreed time you will be required to meet the costs of a contractor doing so.
You should be aware that a route being diverted does not cease to be a public right of way until we have certified that the new route has been created to an acceptable standard.
Width of a new route
If you are altering an existing route which has a recorded width, then the new route must be at least as wide. A minimum width applies to all other routes:
- at least 1.5 metres for footpaths
- at least 3 metres for bridleways and restricted byways
A greater width may be necessary if there is likely to be heavy use of the route and/or it is to run between fences or be otherwise confined. If you are proposing a route along an existing track it is usually appropriate for the public right of way to exist over the whole width of the track.
Contact the appropriate district or borough council for more information about PPOs.