Public rights of way

The following Planning practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Public rights of way
  • Types of PROW
  • The definitive map
  • Modifications of the definitive map
  • Who is responsible for PROW?
  • Dedication of PROW
  • Inclosure
  • Diverting, stopping up and creating PROW
  • Planning applications and development

Public rights of way

Public rights of way (PROW) are highways that allow the public a legal right of passage. They have the same status and protection in law as highways and remain in existence until legally closed, diverted or extinguished. It is a criminal offence to obstruct a PROW.

Early identification of PROW can help to avoid potential delays to development or difficulties in selling properties. Local authorities are under a legal duty to keep all PROW available to the public and can take enforcement action and instigate prosecutions to ensure that PROW remain open.

Types of PROW

While a PROW must be open to all members of the public, the right to use a particular PROW is limited to a certain class of user. The following are considered the main types of PROW:

  1. a carriageway—over which the public have a right of way on foot, riding on or accompanied by a beast of burden and with vehicles and cattle

  2. a footpath—for use on foot and mobility vehicles (eg pushchairs and wheelchairs) only

  3. a bridleway—for use on foot, horse and cycle

  4. a byway open to all traffic (BOAT)—for use on foot, horse, cycle, motorised and non-motorised vehicles

  5. a restricted byway—for use on foot, horse, cycle, horse drawn vehicle or 'non-mechanically propelled vehicle' (this means a vehicle that has mechanical means of propulsion and it includes motorised vehicles

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