FOOTPATHS & FOOTWAYS - LEGAL
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Apart from the roads, the only Highways we have in Stoke are our Footpaths and the one ‘Byway Open to All Traffic’ - Pound Drove. There are no Bridleways in the parish. Also, there are no ‘Right to Roam’ Access Areas.
Highways, which include footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic, are protected by legislation under the Highways Act 1980 - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1980/66/contents
Every Highway authority (in our case Somerset County Council) has a duty, set out under section 130 of the Highways Act, to:
“assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority, including any roadside waste that forms part of it, and to
prevent, as far as possible, the stopping up or obstruction of the highways in their area”
Footpath This public right of way is meant for pedestrians only. Prams, pushchairs, mobility scooters or wheelchairs can also be used on a footpath, but there is no requirement to make access for them.
Byway Open to All Traffic These byways are open to motorists, bicyclists, horseriders, motorcyclists and pedestrians. As with public tarmac road networks, motorists must ensure that they are legally authorised to use them (i.e. registered, taxed, insured and MoT’d).
Footway The Highways Act defines it as "a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public have a right of way on foot only". They are usually raised from the road and are normally known as pavements.
Many landowners, both farmers and householders, have public footpaths running across their land, and the maintenance of these paths and liability for injury on them is often a cause for concern. The highway authority usually has the duty “to keep the surface in a safe condition and fit for the type of traffic which is ordinarily expected to use it”
Any stile, gate or other similar structure across a footpath belongs to the landowner and must be maintained by the landowner in a safe condition, and to the standard of repair required to prevent unreasonable interference with the rights of persons using the path. If the path includes a bridge passing over a natural stream or obstacle, the bridge is part of the path therefore publicly maintainable.
The Occupiers Liability Acts do not apply to visitors using public rights of way. Therefore neither the Highway Authority nor the landowner is liable under the Acts to users of the path. Stiles and other structures are an exception as the landowner is liable for these.
Footpaths on edge of a field must not be ploughed. Footpaths can be ploughed if they cross fields, but landowners must ensure that they restore footpaths after ploughing. A minimum width of 1 metre must be made available within 14 days of ploughing.
If you walk a right of way footpath in a field, you must keep to the line of the path. You are not allowed to disturb or harm any wildlife found on a public right of way, and you should not drop or leave litter.
If you are walking a dog, you must also make sure that it does not stray off legal lines of a public footpath, either into a field or an adjoining hedge. Also ensure that you clean up your dog mess, if your dog fouls a footpath.