Close menu
bottom curve image

The registration of public rights of way and town and village greens has major consequences for landowners, and it is important for those who are making an application, objecting to one, or who wish to protect themselves from future applications, to seek advice.

Our solicitors are highly experienced in this area and can provide comprehensive advice to landowners and individuals.

Contact Our Planning Team

What are highways and public rights of way?

A highway is defined as a route over which "the public at large" can pass and repass as frequently as they wish, without hindrance and without charge.

The phrase ‘public right of way’ is often used interchangeably with highway. However, ‘public right of way’ generally refers to the minor ways which are shown on a Definitive Map and Statement and which comprise footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic (referred to as ‘BOATs’).

What is a town and village green?

Town and village greens are areas of land where local people indulge in lawful sports and pastimes, such as fetes, games, and picnics.

What steps can a landowner take to protect their land?

There are a number of steps which can be taken by landowners, including erecting signage, restricting access by the public, and depositing statements with their local authority which confirm that they have no intention of dedicating the land as a highway. We can advise in respect of all of these.

Public Right of Way Sign

How can our planning lawyers help?

Our solicitors provide advice in respect of applications under section 31 of the Highways Act 1980 to record new public rights of way, which are made on the basis that the 'way' has been enjoyed by the public as of right, and without interruption, for 20 years. 

We often act for landowners who consider that there is sufficient evidence that they had no intention to dedicate the land as a public right of way.

We also advise regarding applications to record new public rights of way on the Definitive Map, which are made on the basis that documentary evidence indicates that the way has always been a public right of way, pursuant to the legal maxim ‘once a highway, always a highway’.

Registering new town and village greens

We deal with applications to register new town and village greens under section 15 of the Commons Act 2006, which requires that "a significant number of the inhabitants of any locality, or of any neighbourhood within a locality, have indulged as of right in lawful sports and pastimes on the land for a period of at least 20 years". We also advise as to the trigger events which exclude the right to apply under section 15.

Strategies to help protect your land

Our solicitors can also present the options which are available to landowners who wish to do what they can to protect their land, and the effectiveness of each, and can also assist if a highway needs to be stopped up or diverted to make way for a development.

Our expertise in action

  • We have acted, and currently act for, a variety of clients in respect of these issues, including for a significant landowner with objections to several applications to register new public rights of way over its land, as well as an application for a town and village green;
  • We have advised a landowner in respect of an application to divert a public right of way away from their land on the basis that it is beneficial to the public, including representing our client at the public inquiry where the application was considered;
  • We have also advised objectors in respect of applications which are made with a view to impeding nearby residential development;

Speak to our solicitors

Our team is highly experienced in providing legal support for individuals, businesses, organisations and local authorities seeking practical advice regarding rights of way, highways and village greens.

Contact Our Planning Team

Key Contacts

David Harries

David Harries

Partner | Head of Planning, Environmental, Energy and Regulatory Law

arrow icon
Read more
Mark Turner

Mark Turner

Planning, Environmental, Energy and Regulatory Partner

arrow icon
Read more