ADAS advice on managing public rights of way and field margins

In the latest of FWi/ ADAS’s frequently asked questions regarding Environmental Stewardship schemes, ADAS’s David Middleditch, examines the rules surrounding public footpaths and stewardship margins.

If you have any questions on this or any other Environmental Stewardship matter ADAS experts are on hand to answer them in our dedicated forum on stewardship.

Margins and Public Rights of Way

Q.I have a public footpath alongside a field boundary. I would like to enter all the boundaries of this arable field into ELS under the 4m buffer strip option. Can I include the footpath within this strip?

A. Public rights of way and ELS buffer strips can run alongside one another but they should not overlap, so if you place a buffer strip alongside this particular field boundary, you must allow for a sufficient width of uncultivated ground for the footpath as well.

As public footpaths cannot be moved without consent from the responsible authority you would site your 4m buffer strip in-between the footpath and the crop.

Note that you are not obliged, under ELS, to enter ALL the field boundaries into the scheme, so if you prefer to leave the boundary with the footpath out of ELS you may do so.

Confusion may come about in this case as 2-metre protective zones, for the fulfilment of GAEC 14 within Cross Compliance, can overlay or partially overlay a footpath or bridleway. Therefore if the boundary in question has a hedge or watercourse adjacent that requires a protection zone, then this area will overlap your public footpath. Your 4m ELS buffer will start where the uncultivated protective zone/footpath ends.

There is more information on public rights of way in the ELS handbook. In particular, it makes clear that, as a condition of joining the ELS scheme, all rights of way must be kept clear of obstruction and, where they cross cultivated land, the surface must be made good within the time required by law.

Please note that where the ELS handbook talks of no access on buffers, this means vehicular access. Permissive access by foot and horseback on buffers can be accepted by the Environmental Stewardship scheme rules, including access by organised groups.


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