Public rights of way

A Public Right of Way is a highway that is recorded on the Definitive Map. Rights of Way can be found in towns, villages and the countryside. It is important not to confuse footpaths with footways i.e. pavements at the side of a road.

Public Rights of Way are classified according to the nature of the rights that the public has over them and can be classified as Footpath, Bridleway, Restricted Byway or Byway.

Footpath – this is a highway, usually marked with a yellow arrow, where the public has a right of way on foot. You may take a pushchair, pram or wheelchair if practicable on a footpath and you can walk a dog that is under close control.

Bridleway – this is a highway that is for use by pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists. These routes are way marked with a blue arrow.

Restricted Byway – this is a highway open to pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists and non-motorised vehicles. They are waymarked with a plum coloured arrow.

Byway – this is a highway that is open to pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, non-motorised vehicles and motorised vehicles. Most of these highways do not have a surface that is suitable for an ordinary motorised vehicle. Byways are waymarked with a red arrow.


Public Rights of Way are all routes where there is a legal right to pass and repass but these cover a wide spectrum of different physical paths, tracks and unmarked ground. The existence of a right of way does not mean that there is a physical path suitable for a particular person at a particular time. All potential users of the public rights of way have a responsibility to ensure their own well-being in the particular circumstances taking into account the weather conditions and nature of the terrain.

Sefton Council and landowners are responsible for maintaining public rights of way.

Highway Authority's duty

It is the responsibility of Sefton Council, as Highway Authority:

  • to ensure that the public rights of way are kept free from obstruction,
  • that structures are provided where appropriate and maintained in a safe and convenient condition, and
  • that vegetation and crops are not allowed to obstruct the public rights of way.

Surfaces of some public rights of way are also the responsibility of Sefton Council.

Landowner's duty

It is the responsibility of the landowner to maintain any permitted gaps, gates and stiles and not to obstruct the public rights of way. It is normally the responsibility of the adjacent landowner to keep their boundary hedges, trees, walls or fences from encroaching onto the right of way, to reinstate the surface of the path following the ploughing a cross-field path and to keep it free of crops.

Public's duty

Members of the public are responsible for keeping to the public right of way and ensuring their dogs are under close control, do not stray from the right of way and do not chase farm animals. It is the responsibility of each user of a public right of way to assess the nature of the path for themselves and to take appropriate care - if necessary turn back rather than risk injury to yourself or companions.

The Definitive Map & Statement is a legal record of the public’s rights of way. If a footpath or a bridleway or a byway is shown on the map then that is conclusive evidence of public rights along it (unless there has been a legally authorised change).

The Definitive Map & Statement can be changed if evidence of missing rights of way is discovered, or if there are errors in previously recorded information. Anyone can ask the Council to consider changing the map. There is a specific procedure to follow which is summarised below. Advice is available from the Public Rights of Way team to help you with your application.

The first step is to check your facts. What does the Definitive Map & Statement show in the area you are interested in? This information can be obtained from the Public Rights of Way team. If you then think that a route needs to be added or that the route or status of an existing path needs modifying in any way you can contact the Public Rights of Way team and a member of staff will discuss what your options are. One of these may be to ask the Council to change the map by means of a Definitive Map Modification Order - a DMMO.

If you wish to ask for a DMMO to be made, the Council has produced an application pack for you to review and complete. Before you send the application form back, you will need to gather evidence in support of your case. Depending on what your application relates to, you may need to look at old maps and plans in local libraries or the record office, to collect evidence of use of the path over a long period of time or to talk to local residents and landowners. 

Register of Applications to Modify the Definitive Map & Statement

View the list of applications received by the Council to amend the Definitive Map and Statement under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Every Highway Authority has a duty to produce a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (RoWIP) under Section 60 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

The legislation requires that the plan considers:

  • the extent to which local rights of way meet the present and likely future needs of the public
  • the opportunities provided by local rights of way (and in particular by footpaths, cycle tracks, bridleways and restricted byways) for exercise and other forms of open-air recreation and the enjoyment of their area
  • the accessibility of local rights of way to blind or partially sighted persons and others with mobility problems.

Liverpool City Regions current RoWIP 2018 – 2028 was jointly adopted by its six neighbouring Merseyside Authorities and published in April 2018.

Download Rights of Way Improvement Plan for more information

A landowner can protect their land from new public rights of way or village greens by making it clear to the public that they have no right to cross or be on your land.

Action may include:

  • putting up carefully worded notices
  • locking a gate at least once a year
  • challenging people using your land and making a note of dates, times and names if possible
  • depositing a statement, map and declaration with us.

Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 190 allows landowners to make their intentions clear by depositing with the appropriate authority a map and statement indicating any ways over that land they admit to be public rights of way. Then within 20 years a landowner must lodge a declaration to confirm that no new rights of way have been dedicated since the date of the deposit of the map and statement. Any public use of the land during this period will not then count towards the establishment of new rights of way.

This procedure will not defeat an application where it is possible to establish a 20 year period of uninterrupted use which expired before the initial deposit of the statement and plan; nor where rights have come to light as a result of historical evidence.

Making a Section 31(6) Application

With the coming into force on 1st October 2013 of the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, procedures for Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 changed. Landowners, or a duly authorised representative, are now required to apply to deposit a statement and map, and/or lodge a declaration, with the relevant authority and applications must be made on a prescribed form (CA16).

Publishing Notice of Application

So as to bring the application to the attention of users of the land the statutory regulations instruct the Local Authority to publish notice by various means including on the Authority’s website, by email on any person who has previously asked to be informed of applications and for not less than 60 days at or near at least one obvious place of entry to (or, if there are no such places, at or near at least one conspicuous place on the boundary of) the land to which the application relates.

Charges for Section 31(6) Applications

Due to the extra requirements placed on appropriate authorities dealing with statements and declarations, including time and travel costs to serve notice on site, it is now possible to set a reasonable fee for processing an application of this type and a charge is now applicable.

Please see below the Authorities register of Landowner Statements, Highways Statements and Declarations

The Local Access Forum (LAF) covers the whole of the Liverpool City Region and Warrington.

LAFs were established under sections 94 and 95 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and are governed by The Local Access Forums (England) Regulations 2007. The purpose of the Local Access Forum is to provide independent advice decision making organisations (such as local authorities) on public access to land for public recreation, sustainable travel and other purposes.

LAFs can set their own priorities depending on local issues. They also respond to consultations and draft policy documents. When making recommendations, the Forum members need to consider land use, as well as the need to conserve flora, fauna, geological and physical features.

Members of LAFs are volunteers and include a range of people from the local community, including:

  • land owners and land managers
  • access users such as walkers, cyclists and horse riders
  • those representing other interests, such as health and conservation

New members are appointed by the local authority, known as the ‘appointing authority’ or ‘access authority’. If you are interested in becoming a member contact the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to request an application pack.

LAF meetings are held at least twice a year and all meetings are advertised on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s website, including the agendas and minutes of previous meetings.

You can find more information on the role of Local Access Forums on GOV.UK.

Documents 

Rights of Way Improvement Plan 2018 - 2028 (pdf 3.03MB)
Register of Declarations Made Under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 (pdf 19KB)
Register of Applications Made Under Section 53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (pdf 19KB)

Last Updated on 30 July 2019