Business Clinic: Can we do anything about busy public footpath?

Whether it’s a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s experts can help. Here, Robert James of Thrings advises on a neighbour and footpath question

Q. A public footpath runs through our land and past our house. The person who lives at the top of the footpath uses it to access his mobile home in the field at the end of the footpath, which is a holiday let.

He takes his guests down the footpath through our property to the mobile home. There is another entrance to the field where the mobile home is.

If he used this, he would not then need to use the footpath day in day out, up to five times a day. Can a footpath be used for this purpose?

A. I can see that your complaint relates to the frequency in which the tenant is using the footpath, and you wish to investigate whether you have grounds to challenge this.

In legal terms, this would be described as intensification or excessive user issue. This means that the use complained of has materially changed in its scope, in terms of the amount of use, its purpose or the nature of the use. One would need to examine the precise terms of the right of way.

However, any potential grounds to challenge only applies to private rights of way.

See also: Do neighbour’s B&B guests have right of way?

You mention the path is actually a public footpath. Regrettably, there is no corresponding avenue to seek to limit the use of a public footpath on the level of use.

Public rights of way can vary in terms of their scope – whether it is access by foot, by horse or by motor vehicle and so on, but whatever its classification, each public right of way will, as a bare minimum, allow public access by foot, which appears to be exactly what the tenant is doing.

Alternative options 

While not a legal solution, one practical solution that you may wish to consider is a way of incentivising the tenant to use the alternative access point, which, in turn, has the potential to reduce the amount of use of the footpath running past your property.

A further thought, albeit there is not enough information to comment at length, is whether the tenant’s use is compliant with any planning requirements.

If not, you could inform the relevant authority, which may take enforcement action to stop the use of the holiday let.

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