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Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) 4 consultation

Tell us what you think about the proposals to improve County Durham's Public Rights of Way (PROW) for all users, ensuring they are fit for the 21st century.


We are developing our fourth Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP4). The Plan sets out how we will invest in our PROW network of footpaths, bridleways, and byways, by enhancing the existing green network for the benefit of those who use the PROW network: walkers, cyclists, horse riders, and some off-road motor vehicles.

County Durham has much to offer residents and visitors who want to discover the natural beauty of its dales, moors, and coastlines, as well as the nature reserves, parks and reclaimed land which surround our towns and villages. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, working habits and recreational time has changed, with people spending more time in their local green spaces, enjoying the benefits in their mental and physical health.

Successes from the current plan (ROWIP3) include partnership working on:

  • the Northern Saints Trails, The Pennine Way, England Coast Path, Brightwater, and The Heritage Way
  • protecting and developing new PROW as part of new land or housing developments
  • replacing hundreds of stiles with kissing gates to make paths more accessible

The strategy

ROWIP4 is the strategic vision for the future PROW network, and it will help us develop our wider goals for the county and its people.

The Plan will focus on four strategic objectives and eight policies. We want your views on the policies which will help us deliver on these goals over the next 10 years to 2033.

This will put us in a strong position to successfully apply for external funding and help set priorities for resources already set aside for PROW improvements. Your views will help us ensure we have the correct strategic objectives and policies before finalising a detailed investment programme. Once the ROWIP is agreed, a shorter three year delivery plan will be produced.


The objectives are:

  • managing and enhancing the PROW network so it is fit for the 21st century.
  • promoting a PROW network that contributes to the Green Economy by marketing the County's high-quality environment
  • empowering communities and individuals to 'move more'
  • ensuring the County's PROW are accessible to people of all abilities


Policy 1: Managing and delivering a high-quality access network

The first policy in the Plan sets the tone for all the policies. It sets out specific duties and projects for us and was created after a workshop session with our Rights of Way staff. In addition to our day to day legal duties, the policy states what the priority projects will be in the 10 year ROWIP4 period. Specifically, it includes prioritising investment and resources for:

  • signage
  • bridleways
  • the Stockton and Darlington Railway Walking and Cycling Route
  • PROW close to towns and villages
  • working and talking to communities
  • diverting footpaths out of farmyards

Some of these projects link to other policies in the ROWIP.

Policy 2: Awareness of Public Rights of Way and other routes

This policy aims to increase public awareness of PROW and other routes by raising the profile of the routes both physically and digitally. The policy proposes a high quality digital platform which brands and connects all our routes onto one web page.

As part of this, we also need more physical signposting to the start of routes and to develop a working partnership with an outdoor app company who could host our branded routes and help people navigate popular routes using GPS.

Policy 3: Making our network accessible - '10 in 10'

We are committed to making PROW more accessible for everyone. This policy will achieve that by setting out a program of accessible routes and wants/seeks/aims to create '10 in 10' circular accessible routes in the County. The routes will be wheelchair accessible and provide high-quality information, such as information on toilets, parking, signage, surface etc.

Policy 4: Helping communities to 'own' their Public Right of Way Network

We want you to 'own' your local PROW so you can care, maintain, and cherish your local routes. To achieve this, we will give some resources so we can work directly with communities and local ambassadors who will serve as community representatives to provide knowledge about creating and maintaining local routes.

Policy 5: Promoting the economy and cultural identity of County Durham through our Public Rights of Way Network

We will promote routes to tourists and local communities through local news sites and social media. This is to encourage use of PROW across the County and showcase the cultural heritage of County Durham through walking, wheeling, or riding.

Policy 6: Ensuring the Countryside Code is followed, and landowners are respected

This policy aims to educate users of the PROW network about the Countryside Code and the work of private landowners to ensure the PROW network is used in a responsible way. We will work with local communities and schools to do this.

Policy 7: Incorporating Public Rights of Way in new housing developments

Under this policy, we will maintain PROW as part of new housing developments in line with Policy 26 of the County Durham Plan (2020). We will provide clear guidelines on how S106 money (money that companies building new housing must provide for wider improvements) should be spent to prioritise and protect the PROW network.

Policy 8: monitoring the use of our Public Rights of Way

We need to monitor the increased use of PROW and the impact it has on ecology and climate change. This will help us focus our investment on the right places, particularly on popular routes. Monitoring will be achieved by GPS and Bluetooth monitoring, as well as in person using counters on PROW routes. Technology ensures maintenance issues can be recorded in real time, such as fallen trees.

Full document

Icon for pdf Draft Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP4) (PDF, 2.4mb)

Have your say

The consultation closed at 5.00pm on Wednesday 26 July 2023. 

Next steps

Your feedback will be considered in the development of the plan. A further report will be made to our Cabinet in autumn 2023 which will set out the findings from this consultation and recommendations on how to take forward the proposals.

Contact us
Spatial Policy
03000 263 967