Cut-off proposed for historic rights of way claims

Natural England has called for 2026 to become the cut-off date for historic rights of way to be recorded on the official definitive map.

If adopted, the deadline would bring an end to farmers and landowners facing claims that ancient rights of way should be reinstated on their property.

The NFU and CLA have welcomed the decision, which was put forward in a report by Natural England’s Stakeholder Working Group, but both organisations have called on the government to make clear how it intends to implement the recommendation.

The 2026 cut-off date for recording rights of way created before 1 January 1949 was passed in the 2000 Countryside Rights of Way Act but has yet to be brought into force. The Act also stated that pre-1949 rights unclaimed by this deadline would be extinguished, said CLA president William Worsley.

“Natural England’s acceptance of the Stakeholder Working Group’s recommendations is no more than a backing of Parliament’s will that an end to uncertainty on this issue is necessary,” he said. “But we are very pleased the end is in sight, even though it may still be some way off,” he said.

NFU president Peter Kendall said the proposals marked an end to claims coming “out of the blue” which were based on historical evidence and had no place in a modern farming business. “Any opportunity to avoid conflicts between Rights of Way and current land use will mean farmers and growers are able to focus on the primary task at hand – namely producing food and managing their land,” he said. “It could also see an end to the current situation where applications for Rights of Way, which are supported by poor evidence, can end up blighting a property for many years.”