Policy and enforcement

The County’s network of Public Rights of Way are protected in law, and all members of the public have a right to their use and enjoyment. Legislation places certain duties and responsibilities on farmers and landowners in respect of Public Rights of Way that cross land within their ownership and control. Similarly, developers wishing to build on land that is crossed by a Public Right of Way must bear in mind their responsibility to ensure that the public are still able to make use of the Right of Way.


Our Responsibilities


We carry out a number of actions to ensure that Public Rights of Way are kept in good order. We undertake to:

  •  put signposts where paths leave a road
  •  way mark routes where they may be unclear
  •  install and repair bridges over waterways
  •  cut and clear vegetation upgrowth on routes (except cross field paths where the landowner has a responsibility)
  •  repair surfaces
  •  maintain drainage as appropriate
  •  work with landowners who must reinstate their cross field paths and keep them clear of crops
  •  work with landowners who maintain approved stiles and gates to safe standards
  •  take enforcement action against landowners/ occupiers/ developers who fail to carry out their obligations in respect of Public Rights of Way.


Enforcement Action

Full details of how we commit to maintain and protect the Public Rights of Way network is contained within the Public Rights of Way Concordat. We take our responsibility to the public with regards to public rights of way very seriously, and seek to take action against wilful and persistent obstructions of public rights of way.

Advice for Developers

Disregarding public rights of way during the planning application process can result in serious problems at both the development stage and post-completion. Resolution can be costly for both the highway authority and the developers, and may result in enforcement action.  

In order to clarify the issues, the Development and Public Rights of Way advice note has been prepared to address the issues and clarify the protocol for development management and public rights of way procedure for all interested parties. The Advice Note has the full endorsement of the Essex Planning Officers Association, and is underpinned by Defra Circular 01/09 ‘Rights of Way’, which reinforces the need for planning authorities to take into account public rights of way when considering a planning application.  

There is also a template for the statutory notice (see documents below) which must be posted on site with the planning application to advertise the existence of a Public Right of Way which crossed land falling within the planning application boundary.

The Essex Rights of Way Improvement Plan

The Essex Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) is a statutory document that sets out how we plan for improving the provision of access to the countryside through Rights of Way for the next 10 years. Development of the ROWIP was a requirement of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000, and contains an assessment of the extent to which the existing network of local Rights of Way meet the present and likely future needs of the public.  It also looks at the opportunities provided by local Rights of Way for all forms of open air recreation and enjoyment, and the accessibility of local rights of way to blind or partially-sighted persons and others with mobility problems.

The ROWIP is the prime means by which Essex County Council will identify changes to be made, in respect of the management and improvements to the local rights of way network in order to meet the Government’s aim of better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians and people with mobility problems.


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