Landowner statements and deposits
Public rights of way can come into being by deemed dedication. A public right of way such as a footpath or a bridleway may be recorded if it is shown that there has been at least 20 years uninterrupted use of a way by the public ‘as of right’ (without force, secrecy or permission). This is known as ‘deemed dedication’. In addition, a town/village green may be registered if it is shown that the inhabitants of a locality, or a neighbourhood within a locality, have used an area ‘as of right’ for a period of at least 20 years for the purposes of lawful sports and pastimes.
However, legislative provisions are available to enable a landowner to protect their land from deemed dedication of public rights of way and from being registered as a town or village green.
Highways Act 1980, Section 31(6)
This provides a way in which landowners (including tenants for life and trustees) can protect their land from public rights of way coming into existence across it as a result of public use.
It requires an application for a map and statement to be lodged with the council outlining the extent of land in their ownership and showing those public rights of way (public footpaths, public bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic) and highways which cross it.
A landowner would then need to lodge an application for a declaration with the council within 20 years of the initial deposit of a map and statement or any subsequent declaration.
This may, from the date of deposit of the initial map and statement, protect the landowner from any routes being claimed as public rights of way across their land through public use.
Commons Act 2006, Section 15A(1)
This provides a way in which landowners can protect their land from being registered as a town or village green.
It requires an application for a statement to be lodged with the council to bring to an end any period which people may have indulged in lawful sports and pastimes on the land together with a map outlining the extent of their landownership.
An application for a further statement would need to be lodged with the County Council within every 20 years of the previous one to continue protection from their land being registered as a town or village green.
The Commons (Registration of Town or Village Greens) and Dedicated Highways (Landowner Statements and Declarations) (England) Regulations 2013 prescribe the form and process for the depositing of, and recording of information relating to:
- a deposit under section 31(6) of the1980 Act;
- a declaration under section 31(6) of the1980 Act;
- a statement under section 15A (1) of the 2006 Act.
The 2013 regulations also made provision for a prescribed application form which allows landowners to submit to the authority a single application for both highways and greens purposes. However, as from 1 October 2013, the council can now charge a fee to cover the costs of processing any application received.