The very last day of the Parliamentary session before the General Election saw the Deregulation Bill receiving Royal Assent. This last formality means that the Bill is now an Act, and that the package of measures intended to improve the processes surrounding the recording of paths on official definitive maps is now law.
These new laws are important because historic paths (paths which came into existence before 1949) which aren’t listed on ‘definitive’ maps by 2026 will be lost forever.
For more than six years we’ve been working with landowners and farmers, local authorities and other path users as part of the Stakeholder Working Group to try and streamline and speed up the process for recording these paths. We’ve also been trying to make sure that paths in current use are not lost by default. Find out more about this critical ‘cut-off’ date here.
However, as Janet Davis, one of our senior policy officers explains, this is only the end of the first stage of a long process.
“The rights of way provisions in the new Bill still require a great deal of work, through regulations and guidance for local authorities and the public. It’s reckoned that it will be another year before they actually come into operation. We’ll continue to work with the Stakeholder Working Group on these measures.”
Our Paths in Crisis report revealed a serious backlog of paths waiting to be recognised as public footpaths. In 2013 there were already more than 4,000 paths on a waiting list to be processed and added to maps. The new provisions should make it easier for local authorities to deal with these backlogs. By adding these paths to the official map they cannot be blocked off or built upon and are protected for future generations to enjoy.
You can keep up to date with all the latest updates on the future of historic paths by getting involved with our Don’t Lose Your Way campaign.