Public Rights of Way under the Highways Act 1980 and use of Access Land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000: Covid-19
We are working with landowners and understand the challenges faced currently.
No Rights of Way have been closed due to Covid-19. It is an offence to obstruct or to declare a Rights of Way closed without lawful authority.
The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government's instructions to maintain social distancing.
Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or access land. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:
- tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gateoffering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained
- temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or school
Note: this is a polite request only, and there is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) or the Highways Act 1980 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way or use of access land
Key points from the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Highways Act 1980
If a land owner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way or use of access land is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice.
A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way or use of access land.
These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.
Do not drive to walk or exercise. Stay local, stay safe and please be considerate to landowners and others.