Protecting yourself from rights of way and town or village green claims: Guidance for Landowners

If you are concerned about adverse rights of way claims being made against your land then you may have made a deposit under section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 with your local county council in the past.

The purpose of a landowner making such a deposit is to provide evidence of a lack of intention to dedicate any new rights of way over their land. This means that any persons claiming that they have used a right of way for more than 20 years as of right (without using force to gain entry, secrecy, and without the landowner’s permission), and without the landowner interrupting them, will be prevented from registering the right of way by ‘implied dedication’. Please note that rights of way may have been established under Common Law.

It can sometimes be difficult for landowners to provide evidence of how they have prevented people from using a right of way at a later date. While some landowners may keep a diary of dates on which they challenged people using the right of way or photographs of signs erected on the land, many do not. The section 31(6) deposit is an ideal tool to show evidence that the right of way in question has not been dedicated by the landowner.

Changes in the law governing the procedure for making a section 31(6) deposit came into force on 1 October 2013, and mean that:

A specified application form must now be used,which no longer needs to be sworn by the landowner;county councils may charge a fee for processing the application;the renewal period has been increased from 10years to 20 years (however any deposits made prior to 1 October 2013 must be topped up within 10 years in the first instance); and notices erected by the county council must be displayed on the land informing the general public that a deposit has been made by the landowner.

The simplification of the process is a welcome change, as is the doubling of the renewal period from 10 years to 20 years. However, landowners must be aware that county councils are obliged to maintain a publicly available register of all deposits made. Most county councils are displaying this information on their website, and so there will be no anonymity for landowners making a deposit. Furthermore, the council will visit the property that is the subject of the deposit to erect a notice.

Town or village green claims

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.