Rights of way obstructions and hazards - ScoutHelp

Widths of rights of way

The highway authority can require a gate across a bridleway to be at least 1.5 meters. The recommended width for a stile is one meter, although this is not a legal requirement.

If a right of way is shown on the definitive map, or has been recently diverted or created, then the statement accompanying the definitive map or the path order may specify a width.

Obstructions

If a right of way is obstructed you may remove just enough of the obstruction to allow you to pass, but you must be careful. You must do the minimum of damage and be careful not to let livestock escape.

You must not use or threaten force against the person responsible or their property, although you can politely but firmly continue to exercise your rights.

An alternative to removing an obstruction is to pass round it, deviating from the line of the right of way. If the path really is impassable you are entitled to deviate, but you must take care to avoid causing damage. If the deviation takes you on to land belonging to someone other than the person responsible for the obstruction, you may be trespassing.

You are not entitled to remove anything that does not obstruct a path but which you feel is dangerous to path users, such as barbed wire or electric fencing alongside the path. If you report the problem to the highway authority they can have it removed. Rights of way obstructions and hazards

Misleading signs

Misleading signs can deter some people or make them feel uncomfortable, even when they know they are on the right path. If a right of way is shown on the definitive map, it is an offense for anyone to put up a sign or notice containing false or misleading information that is likely to deter people from using the route. You should report any problems to the highway authority.

Intimidation and nuisance

If anyone tries to prevent you from using a public right of way or an area of land that you know is open to access, whether by telling you to leave, by keeping a fierce dog close to the highway to deter you, or by any other form of intimidation or harassment, you should notify the highway authority. If anyone threatens or uses force against you, the police should be notified as well. You may also be entitled to prosecute privately or to apply to the magistrates to have the offender bound over to keep the peace.

Committing a breach of the peace, or behaving in a way likely to provoke one, is an offense, the penalty is imprisonment or a fine or both.

Anyone behaving unreasonably and thereby interfering with the use of a public right of way may also be committing a nuisance, for which they can be sued privately, or prosecuted for a criminal offense, or both, depending on the nuisance. If you are injured by something on the path, you should report it to the highway authority. You may be able to sue privately for damages, but your own actions will be examined carefully.

Electric fences

Electric fences are sometimes used to contain farm animals. They are powered by mains electricity or batteries which send a ‘pulse’ of current along the wire every second or so. They are designed not to be dangerous to humans but they can still be very unpleasant if you touch them. You should be particularly careful not to get entangled in them and to keep dogs well away from these fences. An electric fence beside a public road or right of way should have yellow warning signs at frequent intervals. If an electric fence crosses a right of way, a non-electrified gate or stile with insulated wires should be provided, and the fence on either side should have warning signs. Barbed wire should never be electrified, nor should any metal that is not part of the fence (such as the handrail on a bridge). If these safety precautions are not observed, you should inform your local highway authority or the Health and Safety Executive.

If someone tries to prevent you crossing land

If anyone tries to prevent you from using a public right of way or an area of land that you know is open to access, whether by telling you to leave, by keeping a fierce dog on the land to deter you, or by any other form of intimidation or harassment, you should notify the highway authority. If anyone threatens or uses force against you, the police should be notified as well. You may also be entitled to prosecute privately or to apply to the magistrates to have the offender bound over to keep the peace.