Public Path Orders - frequently asked questions

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How do I apply?

The procedures for making changes to the rights of way network are complicated and changes cannot be made quickly.

Contact your local District or Borough Council for more details


How much does it cost?

Costs will vary depending on the number of paths you want to change and the complexity of the application. In most cases you will be required to pay administration and advertising charges and the costs of any site works needed, such as signposts or bridges

Contact your local District or Borough Council for more details

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Is my application likely to succeed?

There is no guarantee that an application will be successful.
Councils carry out informal consultations on proposals with the appropriate Parish/Town Council(s), representatives of the user groups (such as the The Ramblers, Open Spaces Society and the British Horse Society), Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the local District Councillor(s) and Suffolk County Council. Both the Ramblers' Association and the Open Spaces Society have a policy of objecting to Public Path Orders unless a clear public benefit can be shown. You should be able to find details on their websites

Initial proposals are often amended at the consultation stage, and suggestions made by the 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 an Order to which a public objection is received it can only proceed with the Order by referring it to the The Planning Inspectorate for determination. This may mean that a public inquiry is held.

Before a Council decides whether to make a Public Path Order it needs to be satisfied that the appropriate legal criteria are met:-

For any Order under the Highways Act 1980 the Council needs to have due regard to the needs of agriculture (including the breeding and keeping of horses), forestry and the desirability of conserving nature in all cases. In addition:

  • Public Path Creation Orders under s26 of the Highways Act 1980: Applicants must be able to show that there is a need for a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway to be created. The power to make creation orders is not widely used. You should contact your local district or borough council for further advice.
  • Public Path Extinguishment Orders under s118 of the Highways Act 1980: Applicants need to demonstrate that the path to be extinguished is not needed for public use. A Council also has to consider the extent to which the path would be likely to be used by the public, and the effect the change would have on the land the route serves. In view of the Ramblers' Association and Open Spaces Society's policies concerning public benefit for Orders, 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.
  • Public Path Diversion Orders made under s119 of the Highways Act 1980: Applicants need to demonstrate that a proposal is in the interests of the owner/occupier/lessee of the land and/or the public, and that the proposed route is not substantially less convenient for the public to use than the existing route. A Council also has to consider the effect the diversion would have on public enjoyment of the whole path and the adjoining network, and the effect the change would have on the land served by the existing route and crossed by the proposed route.
  • Public Path Stopping Up or Diversion Orders made under s257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990: Applicants need to demonstrate that it is necessary to stop up or divert the route in order to enable development to be carried out in accordance with planning permission granted by the Council to which they are applying. A Council also has to consider the loss likely to arise to users of the route as a result of the change.

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When should I prepare a new route?

The new route need not be prepared until 6 weeks after the legal work to effect the change has been completed. However, before then the County Council will prepare a Certificate of Works, stating what will be required to bring the new route to the appropriate 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 want to do the works and you will be informed of the appropriate date to start work. 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 the County Council has certified that the new route has been created to an acceptable standard.


How wide should a new route be?

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 and at least 3 metres for bridleways or 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's right of way to exist over the entire width of the track.

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