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Advice for farmers/landowners

This page provides information to landowners and occupiers relating to public access.

Landowner on a public right of way

Public Rights of Way remain open, but please be considerate when using them and see our Coronavirus Public Rights of Way guidance.

We have produced a leaflet entitled 'Public Rights of Way - A Guide for Landowners and Occupiers', which can be downloaded. Alternatively a paper copy can be obtained for free by contacting us. Farmers and landowners need to:

  • Know where public rights of way cross your land, as shown on the online Definitive Map.
  • Ensure that any public rights of way are not obstructed.
  • Cut back overhanging and encroaching vegetation that affects public rights of way. Further information can be found in the Overhanging hedges, trees and shrubs leaflet.
  • Remember that it is illegal to cultivate or disturb any field edge footpath or bridleway.
  • Provide and maintain stiles and gates on paths across your land in a safe and convenient condition for public use. A grant of 25% of reasonable costs incurred maintaining stiles and gates is available. Works carried out on Teesdale and Weardale Way paths attract a 50% grant.
  • Ensure that footpaths and bridleways across fields are reinstated and marked on the ground to the correct width after ploughing or other authorised works.
  • Ensure that paths across fields are kept free from crops. A range of minimum widths are prescribed by law depending on the path's status and location where no other evidence exists as to width.
  • Byways, roads used as public paths and county roads must not be cultivated or disturbed under any circumstances.

Stiles and gates on public rights of way

Farmers and landowners also need to:

  • Obtain our agreement before erecting stiles or gates in new locations along a footpath or bridleway. You can only be legally authorised under certain conditions. Further advice is contained in Icon for pdf Conditions for the authorisation of stiles and gates on public rights of way (PDF, 101.9kb) . You may want to see our guidance on stiles and gates for appropriate designs.
  • Make arrangements with us for paths, which will be affected by drainage or other engineering works to be properly diverted on a temporary basis.
  • Provide adequate bridges for all users where new ditches are made or existing ones widened.

Cattle in fields with public access

Particularly relevant since the introduction of open access land in England and Wales, guidance for keeping cattle in fields with public access has been produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Agricultural Information Sheet   Icon for pdf Health and Safety Executive - Cattle and public access in England and Wales (PDF, 40.9kb)  

Open access

Landowners wishing to know more about their rights and responsibilities with respect to open access, can obtain further information from the Natural England: open access land website.

Deposits of Statements, Maps and Declarations by landowners

Section 31 (6) of the Highway Act 1980 - Deposit of Statement, Maps and Declaration allows for landowners to acknowledge the existence of certain public rights of way across their land and to prevent new public rights of way being created by 'presumed dedication'.

Presumed dedication is where new public rights of way are created following use of the route by members of the public, usually for a period of twenty years or more. A deposit/declaration will not prevent the creation of rights of way that may already exist through an earlier twenty years of use or documentary evidence.

Please see the landowner statements, highways statements and declarations form on making an application. An application form can be downloaded below and should be returned by post (a signed paper copy is required). This can also be submitted jointly as a landowner village green statement. 

A fee of £172 is payable for Highways deposits of less than 200 hectares and an additional £34 an hour for larger land holdings. Where a joint Highways and Village Green deposit is lodged the fee is £230 (due to additional costs required for site advertising). Please enquire directly for the correct fee for your application.

Please enquire directly for the correct fee for your application.

For more information on village greens visit Common land and village greens.

Contact us
Access and Rights of Way
03000 265 342
Our address is:
  • Regeneration and Economic Development
  • Durham County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UQ
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