What to do about overgrown paths

The Open Spaces Society has been defending open spaces in England and Wales since 1865.

This information sheet covers the following information on what to do about overgrown paths.

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Introduction

With cutbacks in local authority expenditure on public paths, overgrowth is an increasing problem. If you come across an overgrown path we recommend the following action.

 

Highway authority

Report it to the highway authority (county or unitary council) which, as the owner of the path surface, is responsible for removing vegetation growing out of the surface (the surface includes the full width of the path, including any trees or other vegetation growing in it).

While the landowner is responsible for cutting back hedges and other vegetation overhanging the path, the highway authority has a duty to ensure that this is done. Similarly, the highway authority has power under the Highways Act 1980 section 154 to require the owner or occupier to lop or cut back overhanging branches and vegetation.

Most councils have an online reporting facility.

Parish or community council

If the problem is local to you, you should ask your parish or community council whether it has any devolved responsibility for path clearance. Some highway authorities pay willing parish and community councils to do certain jobs for them and you can then report the problem direct to that council.

However, if the work is not done in reasonable time, you should report the problem and the failure to act to the highway authority, which remains responsible for all public paths.

Photographs

It is always helpful to take and send in photographs, which might avoid the need for council officers to make a site visit.

Self-help

You might like to carry a pair of secateurs with you on a walk or ride, to snip back encroaching branches—but do not do any heavy work and certainly do nothing which might cause damage to anyone’s property or allow livestock to escape.

Further resources about What to do about overgrown paths

  • Deregulation Act

    A small but important part of the act concerns public rights of way, and will take effect once the regulations and guidance have been completed.

  • Claiming a Public Footpath

    It is possible to apply to include on the definitive map routes which have been used by the public, ‘as of right’ for twenty years.

  • Getting Decent Widths in Path Diversion Orders

    Some slightly random thoughts on the matter to encourage action.

  • Information on Highway Verges

    Along many of the highways of England and Wales are to be found strips of land open to the public.

  • Parishes dealing with highway obstructions

    Town, parish and community councils are likely to take a strong proprietorial interest in their parish rights of way, and in their local highway network generally.

  • Taking action

    Challenging councils who have failed to make progress with definitive map change applications

  • Local Access Forums: role of the local authority

    As a local authority or national park authority, find out what responsibilities you have for your LAF.

  • Local authority rights of way improvement plans

    As a local authority you must review your rights of way improvement plan every 10 years.

  • Authorising structures on rights of way

    Good practice guidance for local authorities on compliance with the Equality Act 2010

  • Path Paraphernalia

    Removing and improving path-paraphernalia

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