Public paths in parliament

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The draft Deregulation Bill, which contains measures for public rights of way (clauses 12-18 and schedule 6), has been published for parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny.

The bill aims to streamline and speed up the procedures for claiming paths for the definitive map. It follows the recommendations of Natural England’s Stakeholder Working Group on unrecorded ways, published in Stepping Forward. We are a member of the group and are pleased that the government has adopted its package of measures.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 contains a provision which, if implemented, will mean that from 1 January 2026 any unrecorded path which existed before 1949 and for which there is only documentary, not user, evidence can no longer be claimed for the definitive map. The legal maxim ‘Once a highway, always a highway’ will no longer apply. We are already more than half way between the enactment of that clause and the time when it takes effect, so the new laws in the Deregulation Bill are urgent.

The draft bill is being scrutinised by a parliamentary joint committee.  We have sent in evidence.  On 29 October the Stakeholder Working Group appeared before the committee for a brief session.  It was represented by its chairman, Ray Anderson, a representative of the practitioners (Ros Emrys-Roberts), landowners (Sarah Slade) and users (our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook). You can watch the session here.

You can find further information about the Bill on the Ramblers’ website.

Once the bill gets into Parliament next year we shall ask you to contact your MP.

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