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Maintenance and Enforcement of Public Rights of Way

Q: What happens when landowners obstruct a right of way or do not fulfil their responsibilities?

A: Council's Rights of Way Teams are responsible for ensuring that public rights of way are kept clear of obstructions and that landowners meet their responsibilities.

Q: Who is responsible for maintaining public rights of way?

A: Maintenance responsibilities are usually divided between the Council, landowners and occupiers.

  • Signposting and way marking; the Council has a duty to signpost public rights of way where they leave a metalled road. Rights of way are also signposted or way marked particularly where the route is not obvious.
  • Stiles and gates; it it the landowner's responsibility to maintain stiles or gates on public rights of way on their land. The Council usually assists landowners particularly if improvement to the path furniture results eg replacement of a stile with a gate.
  • Obstruction; it is an offence to intentionally obstruct a public right of way.
  • Ploughing and cropping; crossfield paths may be ploughed or cropped as long as the path is reinstated within 14 days and the line of the path is made clear on the ground. Headland paths must not be ploughed or cropped.
  • Overgrown vegetation; landowners are responsible for cutting back hedges, trees or shrubs overhanging a public right of way. Surface vegetation on rights of way i.e. undergrowth such as nettles and brambles, is the responsibility of South Gloucestershire Council.
  • Bulls; a bull can only be kept in a field crossed by a right of way if it is under 10 months old OR it is accompanied by cows or heifers. Please report any incidents to public rights of way.
  • Bridges; the Council is responsible for the maintenance and repair of foot and bridle bridges. Please report any problems to us.
  • Surface; the Council is responsible for the maintenance of the surface of most rights of way according to the status of the path e.g. a footpath will be maintained up to footpath standard even if it carries private vehicular rights. Please report any problems to us.