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The government website which advises landowners of their responsibilities for public rights of way on their land tells them to break the law.
Says our general secretary Kate Ashbrook: ‘The website advises landowners that it’s OK to plough cross-field paths provided people can easily walk around the edge of the field. The relevant legislation (Highways Act 1980 section 134) makes no mention of being able to walk around the field: it says that the occupier (ie landowner or tenant) of the field must not plough a cross-field path if it is reasonably convenient to avoid doing so.
‘Furthermore, the government advises landowners that if they have to cultivate a cross-field path, they must make the path apparent on the ground and make it good to at least the minimum width within 14 days— if users can’t walk around the edge of the field. Again the law does not mention walking around the field edge, it says that the path must be apparent, and made good within 14 days, regardless of being able to walk around the field edge.
‘This is telling landowners to break the law. The abuse of public paths is one of the most commonly occurring crimes in the countryside. The government’s advice will ensure that this crime becomes even more common.
‘We have called for the website to be corrected at once,’ Kate concludes.
Footnote 17 October 2014
We’re pleased to confirm that the page has now been corrected.
You can read more on Kate’s blog here.