Landowners and Managers

Landowners and Manager rights and responsibilities.

Know your rights, responsibilities and liabilities

  • Know the location of any public rights of way on your land and give them due consideration.
  • By law you must keep rights of way clear and unobstructed. It is a criminal offence to discourage the public right to access with misleading signs

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Make it easy for visitors to act responsibly

  • Keep paths, boundaries, signs, gates and stiles in good order. Consent must be obtained from the Local Authority before altering the surface of a public right of way.
  • Where public access leads through a boundary feature, such as a fence or hedge, maintain the structure – stile or gate – or create a gap if you can. When installing new structures make sure you have the permission of Caerphilly CBC. Please contact the Public Rights of Way Team.
  • Where necessary, give clear and polite guidance regarding land management operations.
  • Make sure your land is kept clear of waste, which will discourage flytipping (illegal dumping of rubbish) and encourage others to be responsible with their litter.

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Identify possible threats to visitor safety

  • Draw the public’s attention to potential man-made and natural hazards on your land (for example,. pesticides).
  • Avoid using electric fencing, barbed wire and other hazards close to areas that people visit, particularly alongside narrow paths and at the height of a child.
  • Do not let animals that are likely to attack visitors roam freely where the public has access – you may be liable for any resulting harm.

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Animals

The key message is that it is an offence to put an animal in a field with a public right of way if it is known to be dangerous. The owner would be liable if it was to injure a member of the public.

  • Bulls.

It is permissible to keep certain breeds of bull in a field or enclosure crossed by a right of way. However there are important exceptions and the Health and Safety Executive have published an information sheet. Cattle and public access in England and Wales

Bull warning notices should only be displayed at an entrance to a field when a bull is present. At all other times the notice should be removed.

Specific advice for rights of way users is also provided - encountering cattle on Rights of Way.

  • Dogs.

Dogs should not be allowed to intimidate path users such that passage along the route is effectively prevented.

  • Behaviour that constitutes a public nuisance includes snarling, barking in a threatening manner, running around and jumping up.
  • While dogs are allowed on enclosed land adjacent to the Public Right of Way, if their behaviour is deemed to be a nuisance, the landowner will be asked to alter the situation to stop this.
  • It is illegal for a dog known to be dangerous to be allowed to roam at large on a highway, which includes a Public Right of Way.
  • If a dog causes an injury, the owner/handler may be liable if the animal’s dangerous character had been previously known.
  • Guard dogs are only allowed at a dwelling house or on agricultural land but are not permitted to cause a public nuisance (Guard Dogs Act, 1975). A notice warning that a guard dog is present must be situated at each entrance.

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Building and buying near a right of way

  • Know the location of any public rights of way on or near your property or the property that you are due to buy, and give them due consideration.
  • All the recorded public rights of way are shown on the definitive map, which can be inspected at Pontllanfraith House, Blackwood upon request.
  • Planning permission alone does not allow the right of way to be obstructed or moved in any way. This includes scaffolding, which must not be sited on a right of way or pose any risk to path users.
  • All public rights of way must remain open and available for public use at all times unless the relevant legal steps have been undertaken.
  • The temporary closure of a public right of way is a legal process, and is done only where it is absolutely necessary and there is a danger to public safety that cannot be designed out. There is an application procedure, and there is a charge for costs incurred for processing a successful application. Please contact the Public Rights of Way Team for more information.
  • Upon completion of any works, the legal, definitive line of the public right of way must be available for use on the ground. This needs to be taken into consideration at the beginning of the process to avoid future difficulties.
  • For more information regarding the planning application process, please contact the Planning Department.

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Definitive and permissive rights of way

The key message is that it is an offence to put an animal in a field with a public right of way if it is known to be dangerous. The owner would be liable if it was to injure a member of the public.

  • Access along the legal line.

The definitive map and statement are the legal record of public rights of way.

The definitive line of public rights of way that cross your land must be accessible by the public.

Landowners must not deter use by the public in any way, for example by blocking the route, altering waymarkers, or through the use of deterrent signs.

You may ask users to leave your land where there is no recorded right of way, that is, where there is no public access right. Where the public have strayed from the definitive line, you may request that they rejoin the path in the most direct way possible.

  • Altering the legal line.

As a farmer or landowner, you have a right to protect your land from claims to add used routes or permissive routes to the rights of way definitive map, which are referred to as Section 31(6) Deposits.

There are legal processes that must be completed if you would like to make any changes to the public rights of way network that cross your land. See the Public Paths Orders page for more information.

  • Permissive paths.

In addition to any public rights of way that cross your land, you may decide to dedicate permissive routes, either formally or informally (see the path creation and permissive paths page).

You can give consent for an additional route on your land to be used by the public by dedicating it as a permissive route on a temporary or permanent basis. We would be interested to hear from you if you have such routes in mind.

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Drainage

Landowners have riparian ownership of unclassified watercourses, culverts and ditches on their land. This means that the responsibility of managing the drainage of public rights of way fall on the landowner.

An unclassified watercourse is any flow of water, other than a main river which is the responsibility of the Environment Agency.

A culvert is an enclosed tunnel-like structure or pipe used to divert the flow of a watercourse, usually underneath a road or public right of way.

The primary responsibility is to keep the watercourse or culvert clear of any blockage that may impede water flow.

Most ditches are on private land and often mark the boundary of private property, and it is therefore the landowner's responsibility to maintain them.

When a watercourse, such as a ditch or stream, is situated on the boundary between two or more properties, it is often the case that each adjoining landowner shares responsibility for the maintenance of that watercourse.

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Ploughing and cropping

The Rights of Way Act (1990) outlines the law regarding ploughing and cultivation of land over which public rights of way pass.

You need to be aware of the legal line of any public rights of way that cross your land so that you can give them due consideration (refer to the definitive map).

  • The occupier of agricultural land may disturb the surface of a footpath or bridleway that crosses a field or enclosure, but only if it is necessary to do so.
  • You must not disturb or plough the surface if it is:
  • reasonably avoidable;
  • a restricted byway, BOAT or any other unsurfaced highway;
  • a headland or field-edge path; or
  • as a result of excavation or engineering operations.

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Route reinstatement

  • After the surface of a footpath or bridleway has been disturbed, there is a duty to restore the legal line. This must be done:
  • Within 14 days of the first disturbance in any cycle of cultivation
  • Within 24 hours of any subsequent disturbances
  • You may apply for an extension of up to 28 days if you know you will not be able to complete operations, for example, due to the weather or unusual nature of the works. An application must be received before the initial time allowed has expired.
  • If this is known before the works commence, please apply in writing before starting, otherwise, if it becomes apparent during the works, please contact the Public Rights of Way Team as soon as possible

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Minimum legal width

  • Following disturbance, the surface of the path needs to be clearly reinstated so that it is reasonably convenient to use and apparent on the ground. This may include putting up signs to direct people across the land that has been disturbed.
  • Reinstatement must meet the following minimum width specifications, unless a different width is defined in the definitive map and statement.
  • Cross-field: footpaths = 1 metre and bridleways = 2 metres
  • Field-edge: footpaths = 1.5 metres and bridleways = 3 metres
  • With regard to crops, there is a duty to prevent any crop, other than grass, from growing on or encroaching from the side the minimum width of any public right of way.
  • It may be more efficient to clear a wider section to allow for crops encroaching onto the line of the path.
  • Grass is defined to be any of the kind commonly used for pasture, silage or haymaking, but excludes all cereals, even if they are being grown for these purposes rather than as a cereal crop.

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Enforcement

  • If you fail to comply with your statutory duty as laid out in the Act, the highway authority has the power to undertake the required works and to recharge any incurred costs to the landowner or manager.
  • Carrying out the work yourself as and when it is required will invariably be cheaper and quicker than any default action by the authority.
  • No more than 24 hours’ notice needs to be given by the Council to carry out work, whether serving notice directly or posting it up on your land.

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Public and private access

There is a distinction between public and private access rights, and these may coexist on the same route. The Council does not hold a record of private access rights. You should seek your own legal advice to clarify if such rights exist.

Private access rights can exist or be exercised in the following ways;

  • Private rights are often to allow individuals access to property or to undertake land management duties,
  • The mode of private access may be greater than the public right, for example vehicles allowed over a footpath where only walkers have legitimate public right of access,
  • Landowners may give permission to allow a greater level of access along a public right of way, for example horse riding on a footpath,
  • The dedicated public right of access along a route would take precedence over any other permitted or private use.

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Structures and fencing

A key objective for us is to improve access along public rights of way, applying a policy of least restrictive access when considering the application for, or the replacement of, a structure across a public right of way.

In practice this means that;

  • existing structures are inspected to ensure that they are appropriate, in a good state of repair and to Caerphilly County Borough Council structure specifications,
  • where structures are found to be in disrepair, landowners are asked to consider replacing these with more user friendly structures, for example, stile with gap or a kissing gate/pedestrian gate,
  • we will refer to historical records to check if there is evidence of a structure in a specific location; and
  • our aim is to have a minimum necessary number of structures on the rights of way network and to progressively replace stiles.

The Highways Act 1980 places the responsibility of the maintenance of existing structures on public rights of way with the landowner.

The Council seeks to work with landowners to ensure that public rights of way are accessible and safe to use. They must ensure that;

  • structures are maintained in a condition that they are safe for the public to use and that they do not cause a hazard or an unnecessary inconvenience; and
  • structures should meet Caerphilly County Borough Council specifications. We have based our standards on the British Standard (#5709) guidelines.

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New structures

You need to ask for our permission if you wish to introduce a new structure on a public right of way.

  • Applications for new structures are only considered on the grounds of either stock control or user safety (see the Forms, Information and Links page).
  • We will only consider applications for new stiles on rare occasions, as pedestrian and kissing gates offer less restrictive access option for route users.

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Fencing

No fencing of any kind may be constructed to encroach into the width of a public right of way.

  • Warning signs must be displayed at regular intervals where electric fencing is used.
  • If a temporary electric fence needs to cross the line of a public footpath, insulated handles must be provided to allow people to pass through and continue along the legal line of the path.
  • Electric fencing must not be installed across or adjacent to bridleways, restricted byways or byways open to all traffic, it presents a serious hazard to horses.
  • Barbed wire should be covered or barbs removed near structures (for example, stiles and gates).
  • Where it is alongside a public right of way, barbed wire should be fixed on the far side of the posts, facing away from the path.
  • Barbed wire or any other metal structure that is not part of a fence (for example, handrail on a bridge) should not be electrified.

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Trees and vegetation

  • Landowners and managers have the ongoing responsibility for the maintenance of side vegetation (for example, hedges) and trees on or by the side of a public right of way.
  • Any necessary surface vegetation clearance, which is the responsibility of the Council.

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Trees

  • The responsibility of trees sited on or near a right of way rests primarily with the owner of the land. Please note that we are rarely the owners of the land on which rights of way are sited.
  • To ensure public safety is maintained, we recommend that landowners periodically check the condition of trees adjacent to or directly on a right of way. It would be prudent to do this especially after a spell of stormy weather.
  • When a tree or branch has come down on a public right of way (for example, due to strong winds), it is deemed to be an obstruction rather than a danger as it is down already. It is the landowner/manager’s responsibility to clear the debris from the route in order to re-establish safe and clear access along it.
  • If works need to be undertaken on a tree, a Temporary Path Closure needs to be in place to ensure public safety. Please contact the Public Rights of Way Team in this situation.
  • Finally, we advise that, before any works are undertaken, you check to ensure the tree(s) concerned is/are not subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

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Overhanging branches

  • Landowners should ensure that any branches overhanging a right of way do not cause difficulty to path users. There should be a minimum height clearance of 3.5 metres on bridleways to provide convenient access for equestrians.
  • Caerphilly County Borough Council is not responsible for trees that present a concern to private property, for example, branches overhanging gardens, affecting light levels, and so on. These are a private matter between the member of the public and the respective owner of the trees.
  • We recommend local enquiries are undertaken to establish ownership of trees or by contacting the Land Registry.
  • In cases where a tree/overhanging branches present an immediate hazard to path users, please contact the Public Rights of Way Team.

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