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How are Rights of Way Managed

How are Rights of Way managed?

Image of the countryside

Worcestershire County Council is responsible for the management of the public rights of way network in the county.  This responsibility is carried out primarily by the Council's Countryside Service Access Team.

With nearly 16,000 individual public rights of way there is a considerable range of issues to address including vegetation growth, signposting and waymarking, repair and replacement of bridges, blocked paths, stiles and gates in need of repair and drainage and surfacing problems.

Who carries out this work?

Whilst the overall responsibility to ensure public rights of way are available for the use and enjoyment of the public rests with the County Council as Highway Authority, responsibilities are divided between the Council and landowners and occupiers.

Image of a Public Footpath signThe County Council is responsible for:

  • Signposting paths where they leave a metalled road
  • Waymarking along the route of paths
  • Clearance of undergrowth i.e. natural vegetation growing through the path surface
  • Maintenance of most bridges and ditch crossings
  • Ensuring landowners and occupiers comply with their responsibilities

Landowners and occupiers are responsible for:

  • Maintenance of stiles and gates
  • Clearance of overgrowth i.e. vegetation growing from the sides or above
  • Re-instatement of paths after ploughing
  • Keeping paths clear of crops
  • Making sure they don't obstruct paths in other ways

How is this work organised?

Image of Bridge Improvement workNecessary work is carried out through a number of different work programmes including general maintenance and improvement, larger scale projects (such as large bridges, or drainage and surfacing work) and partnerships with local volunteers (volunteering) and parish councils.  Some of the work is done in response to problems reported by the public (report a problem) and some through planned programmes such as the summer strimming or signposting programmes.

Apart from work undertaken by the Council's contractors, many problems, particularly lower priorities, are resolved by local Parish Paths Wardens and other volunteers.

Most landowners and occupiers carry out their responsibilities without contact or action by the County Council.  Occasionally, however, some landowners or occupiers fail to comply with their statutory duties and the Council is required to resolve the matter.  Normally this is achieved through co-operation but, if necessary, the Council will serve legal notice, take direct action to clear an obstruction and/or consider prosecution.

How is the work prioritised?

Given the extensive network of paths in the county, and the different uses made of them, some paths have different maintenance needs from others. For example, a path regularly used by families, perhaps with pushchairs, to access the village school, will probably require a level, tarmaced surface, strimming of undergrowth if necessary during the summer months, be free of stiles and require prompt response to any problems that arise.  On the other hand, a footpath in a remote rural location is more likely to be visited by more experienced walkers who are competent map readers, able to climb stiles as well as cope with some undergrowth and, thus, maintenance standards may not need to be so high or dealt with so quickly.

Consequently, following extensive consultation with parish councils, local parish paths warden volunteers, user groups and land management groups, each path in the county has been allocated a classification (A,B,C or D), not dissimilar to the classification of roads. Allocated classifications reflect the level and type of use and hence the needs of communities and other users.  Path classifications can be seen on the public rights of way map.

The classification allocated to a path is, of course, not necessarily fixed for ever. If it is felt that the classification needs to be amended due to changing use, and perhaps suggestion from a parish council or users, then this can be done.

Across the whole network of paths in the county, the County Council has several thousand problems to tackle each year, whether reported by the public or identified by officers.  Given this volume, problems need to be prioritised and this is determined by considering the path classification, referred to above, alongside the severity of the problem and its impact on path users. Taking account of the path classification and problem severity, the County Council's Countryside Access Team allocates a priority between 1 and 6 to each identified problem or issue.

Problems are normally addressed in order of priority.  For example, a Priority 1 will be inspected and fixed, made safe or, if necessary, temporarily closed, as a matter of urgency.  Other priority problems are also generally dealt with in order of their priority although it often makes sense to include some lower priority work with higher priority work in the same locality.

Further Information

In this section

More Information

See also in our website

External websites

  • Defra
    Department for environmental food and rural affairs.
  • British Waterways
    Creating sustainable waterways for the future.
  • English Heritage
    Looking after the historical environment in England for future generations.
  • Environmental Agency
    The government agency responsible for protecting and improving the environment, water, land and air.
  • Natural England
    The Government advisor on the natural environment.

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This page was last reviewed 7 August 2013 at 9:22.
The page is next due for review 3 February 2015.