Public rights of way in Northumberland

Public rights of way in Northumberland

This section will give you all of the information relating to public rights of way in Northumberland.

Public rights of way in Northumberland

The council has a range of responsibilities for the management and maintenance of public rights of way.

There are more than 3,000 miles of public rights of way in Northumberland. They are a great resource to help you exercise, relax or enjoy the outstanding quality of the Northumberland countryside, coast, towns and villages.

Map of public rights of way in Northumberland

Definitive rights of way map & statement

Information about the definitive map and statement, and link to the rights of way map.

What is a definitive map and statement?
The definitive map and statement is the document where all public rights of way are legally recorded. It provides conclusive evidence of the paths it shows but there may be other paths with public rights that aren’t shown. The copy is updated on a regular basis but to see the most up to date information, you need to make an appointment to see the definitive map at County Hall. This is recommended when you are relying on information contained on the map for conveyance or legal purposes.
  • You can make an appointment by telephoning 01670 624134.
Changes to the definitive map
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 allows anyone to apply to the council to make a modification in order to change the definitive map and statement if they believe that they’re incorrect. Modification orders will be made where reasonable evidence is found that:
  • a route that should be shown on the map is not recorded there
  • a route that is recorded on the map shouldn’t have been
  • a route may have been recorded incorrectly (e.g. shown as a footpath instead of as a bridleway)
  • a route is shown on the wrong line
  • a route should be more precisely defined (e.g. have its width recorded)
This evidence may be historical (e.g. based on inclosure award maps) or user based (e.g. the public have been using the route uninterrupted for more than 20 years).

If you think you have evidence that the definitive map is in some way incorrect, or believe that a route may be a public right of way but isn’t recorded, contact us on 01670 624136.
Register of definitive map modification order applications
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 placed a requirement on the council to keep and maintain a register of definitive map modification order applications. The purpose of the register is to increase public knowledge about applications, which could result in changes to the network.

The register has been incorporated as a layer on the working copy of the definitive map and statement. If you have any problems using the link or want further information, please email
David.Brookes@northumberland.gov.uk
Information for landowners & occupiers

Rights of way – maintenance & enforcement

Information about the council and the landowners’ responsibilities for public rights of way, the rights of the public and ways to report a problem.

In Northumberland there are more than 3,000 miles of public rights of way, including footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to traffic. Public rights of way are paths that you have a right to use at any time. Landowners may not obstruct or otherwise prevent you from using a public right of way.

About rights of way
On a footpath you have a right to pass on foot, and you may take a dog with you providing it is kept under close control. You may take a wheelchair, although often the path surfaces are too soft or uneven to allow this.

Bridleway users have the rights of a footpath user and horses or bicycles may be ridden or walked.

On a restricted byway, you have all the rights of a bridleway. In addition, you can take a non-mechanically propelled vehicle.

On a byway open to all traffic, all users have a right to use the path, including those in mechanically propelled vehicles.
  • You can find out where your local public rights of way are by following this link to the council's map of rights of way.
The county council’s rights of ways responsibility
The county council, as highway authority, is responsible for asserting and protecting the rights of the public to use public rights of way. They ensure that:
  • the public rights of way network is properly maintained
  • public rights of way are free from obstructions
  • public rights of way are signposted where they leave metalled roads (surfaced roads)
They also ensure landowners and managers comply with their legal responsibilities regarding the maintenance of stiles and gates on public rights of way and the reinstatement of paths that have been disturbed through cultivation.

The landowner or occupier is responsible for:
  • providing and maintaining stiles and gates
  • cutting back overhanging vegetation that may obstruct a public right of way
  • not obstructing or damaging the surface of a right of way
  • ensuring that field edge paths are left free from cultivation for the legal minimum width of 1.5m for a public footpath and 3m for a public bridleway
  • reinstating cross-field paths so the route is visible on the ground within 14 days of ploughing or 24 hours of any subsequent disturbance of the path surface
  • ensuring paths through arable crops are free from obstructing crop growth to the legal minimum width of 1m for a footpath and 2m for a bridleway
Reporting a rights of way problem
If you encounter a problem while using a public right of way, you can report it using the link below. A member of the countryside team will investigate the issue and seek to resolve it as soon as possible. They may contact you to let you know when the problem has been resolved or what action will be taken.
Getting involved in your local paths
We are keen to encourage the involvement of local community and parish groups in the maintenance and improvement of local path networks. We have produced a booklet, Public Paths in Northumberland: A practical guide to action on rights of way for local groups', to give details of how you can get involved.

If you are considering forming a local group to help monitor and improve your local path network, please get in touch with the countryside team at County Hall on 0345 600 6400.

Local access forum

This page contains information about the Northumberland National Park and county joint local access forum.

Local access forum
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 requires every local highway authority and national park authority to establish an advisory body known as a local access forum.

Northumberland County Council and the Northumberland National Park Authority decided to establish a joint local access forum called the Northumberland National Park and County Joint Local Access Forum and its remit extends across Northumberland.

The secretary for the forum is based at the national park headquarters in Hexham and can be contacted at the following email address: marion.hume@nnpa.org.uk
The role of the local access forum
The forum has an advisory role in strategic access and recreation issues. It acts as statutory advisor to the council, national park authority and to other bodies on the improvement of public access to land for the purpose of open-air recreation and enjoyment.

In recruiting members of the forum, the authorities have sought to provide a reasonable balance between representatives of:
  • users of local rights of way or the public in relation to rights over access land
  • land owners or occupiers
  • any other relevant interests, for example tourism, sport, nature conservation and disabled access
Meetings normally take place four times a year and are scheduled at different locations around the county. The meetings are open to interested members of the public.
The work of the local access forum
The forum is consulted on:
  • the process of producing a rights of way improvement plan for the county
  • issues relating to open country, registered common land and other registered access land
  • bylaws to be made by the access authorities affecting access land
  • directions restricting or excluding long-term access from land
  • matters relating to the management of the public rights of way networks in the county
  • other relevant issues relating to access and outdoor recreation
Click here for more Defra information on local access forums.