Rights and responsibilities

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.

Your responsibilities as a user

  • Be safe - plan ahead and take a map
  • Leave gates and property as you ?nd them
  • Protect plants and animals, and take litter home
  • Keep dogs under close control at all times and clear up after them
  • Consider other people both using the path and those that live close to it
  • Be mindful that the land you walk through is private and should be respected
  • Know the limit of your rights, for example you cannot use a bicycle on a footpath

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
  • Waymark path junctions
  • Install and repair bridges over waterways
  • Maintain the vegetation upgrowth on routes (except cross field paths where the landowner has a responsibility) so as not to cause an impassable obstruction
  • Repair surfaces
  • 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

Landowner responsibilities

  • Keep hedgerows clear from overhanging and obstructing passage along a PROW
  • Keep crops clear of a PROW by cutting or spraying the crop and ensure that after disturbing the ground that the path is flattened and marked out across the field
  • Obtain a legal order to temporarily stop or to divert Public Rights of Way over their land before any alterations are made 
  • Obtain the consent of the highway authority before putting in structures such as gates on a Public Right of Way 
  • Ensure that stiles and gates are kept in good repair and are easy to use
  • Ensure dairy bulls over ten months of age are not kept in fields through which a Public Right of Way passes

Please see the Landowners Guide for more information.

Enforcement action

Details of how we commit to 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. 

Equally we will work with the Police and the District and Borough Authorities where requested to prevent anti-social, nuisance or illegal behaviour on the PROW network. 

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.

The Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 requires that the existence of a Public Right of Way, which crosses land falling within the planning application boundary, is advertised in a newspaper, on or near the site, or that notice is served on owners or occupiers of adjoining landowners (see article 8 of the Order).

The Essex Rights of Way Improvement Plan

The Essex Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) is a statutory document that sets out our ambitions for improving the provision of access to the countryside through Rights of Way over a 10 year period. 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 met the present and likely future needs of the public.  It also looked 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 was published in 2009 and it remains the prime means by which Essex County Council will identify 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.