A LEGAL LOOPHOLE which had previously enabled individuals to deliberately block public rights of way has been closed by the government.

Junior DEFRA minister Alun Michael said the change in the law would prevent landowners exploiting corporate status to make enforcement action difficult.

“This is aimed at any landowner who seeks to deliberately block a right of way and hide behind what amounts to little more than a shell or paper company,” he said.

“This small but significant loophole was potentially undermining the confidence of local highway authorities in seeking to take action against corporate bodies where they obstruct public rights of way.”

Mr Michael added that the public were entitled to expect rights of way to be kept open and available for use.

Corporate status can, under certain circumstances, make enforcement of court orders and fines for removal of obstructions particularly difficult.

New legislation has been introduced to ensure that where a corporate body commits an offence, directors and other officers of the company may also be personally liable.