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Obstructions On Rights Of Way: Removal Process Is Tightened

New provisions for removing obstructions from public rights of way are outlined by Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael in guidance for local authorities, published today.

The guidance has been prepared in the light of legislative changes under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which will require local authorities to ensure obstructions are cleared within a set timescale. Keeping rights of way clear of obstructions which interfere with the public's use and enjoyment has always been the responsibility of local authorities, but this is the first time a limit has been put on the window in which they must act. If they fail to comply, a magistrate's court order can now be served, compelling them to do so.

Alun Michael commented:

"Our network of public rights of way is not only an important resource for leisure and recreation. For many people it provides vital support routes for everyday activities.

"The public has the right to enjoy these routes unimpeded, but in the past the success of the system for dealing with obstructions has depended entirely on the disposition of the local authority concerned. It is understandable that without an incentive to deal with cases promptly timescales can slip.

"The changes we have made to this system will give new confidence that the inconvenience caused by obstructed rights of way will be minimised."

Under the provisions, any member of the public encountering certain types of obstruction can serve a notice on the local highway authority, requesting that it act to have the obstruction removed. The authority will then have a month in which to serve notice of its own on the party who appears to be responsible, stating what action if any it proposes taking.

If the obstruction hasn't been removed within two months of the original notice, the complainant can apply to a magistrates' court for an order, requiring the authority to take specified steps to remove the obstruction.

Copies of the guidance to accompany the Statutory Instrument, which includes the forms of notices prescribed in these regulations, have been sent to local authorities today. Further copies of the guidance are available from Admail 6000, London SW1A 2XX 08459 556000 (quote reference PB 9193). The guidance, forms and a summary of the consultation exercise are also available online at

Issued by : DEFRA Press Office



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