The push to improve the processes surrounding the recording of historic paths on official maps passed another milestone on 3 February, with members of the House of Lords agreeing to a package of changes in rights of way law as part of the Deregulation Bill.
Historic paths (paths which came into existence before 1949) which aren’t listed on official ‘definitive’ maps by 2026 will be lost forever, so for more than six years the Ramblers has been working with landowners and farmers, local authorities and other path users—the Stakeholder Working Group—to try and streamline and speed up the process for recording them, as well as making sure that paths in current use are not lost by default. You can read more about this critical ‘cut-off’ date here.
The wide-ranging Deregulation Bill, which covers a diverse range of issues in addition to rights of way, has been making its way through Parliament for a year now. Janet Davis, one of our senior policy officers, was invited to speak at a parliamentary committee session to explain why the changes to rights of way law are needed, and as the Bill has progressed through the House of Commons and House of Lords we’ve been briefing MPs and peers and meeting with Ministers, to keep the provisions on track, and to prevent the introduction of damaging amendments which were not part of the agreed package.
It is hoped that the Bill will become law this spring, but much work is still needed on regulations and guidance for local authorities before the rights of way measures will come into operation. The Ramblers will continue to work with the Stakeholder Working Group on these measures.
Local authority backlogs in processing applications to add paths to the map were highlighted in our Paths in Crisis report which highlighted the fact that in 2013 there were already over 4,000 applications for paths to be added to maps waiting to be processed. The new provisions should make it easier for local authorities to deal with these backlogs. Recording of paths on these legal maps stops them from them being easily built on or closed off.
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.