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Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

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Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby Lizzie » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:18 pm

Part of our land comprises a narrow, grassed track which is also a public footpath (not a bridlepath). Out of the blue, a neighbouring farmer has just made the path unusable by driving cattle down it. He apparently has the right to do this under a private easement (right of way), but there is no clause in the deed requiring him to repair or contribute to repairs on this right of way.

Who is responsible for reinstating the path to the previous condition so it is again usable by the public? Are we liable as landowners to reinstate the path each time he does this or to make up the track to a standard suitable to bear the weight of cattle without damage, such as putting down hardcore (this will cost a lot of money as the track is very long)? Alternatively, are the local authority responsible given that they are responsible for the surface condition of the footpath? Or can the farmer be made to repair the footpath or bring it to the required standard?

Please help as we are very worried about the possible cost of putting this right if it is our responsibility.
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby Millbrook2 » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:24 pm

Check this out, it may be worth contacting the Highways Authority

https://www.gov.uk/public-rights-of-way ... sibilities
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby Lizzie » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:39 pm

Hi Millbrook2,
Thanks for your quick response and the link. I've already had a look at that one and unfortunately I don't think it quite gets us there. I have to say that I'd like to get this clear in my head before I go to the Highways Authority or anyone else, which is one reason for posting.
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby blig » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:58 pm

Yes, ask the Highway Authority to tale action under S131A of Highways Act 1980 (below). Even if there is a historic easement allowing the farmer to drive cattle on the land, he isn't now allowed to disturb the surface of a public footpath.

131A Disturbance of surface of certain highways.

(1)A person who, without lawful authority or excuse, so disturbs the surface of—
(a)a footpath,
(b)a bridleway, or
(c)any other highway which consists of or comprises a carriageway other than a made-up carriageway,as to render it inconvenient for the exercise of the public right of way is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(2)Proceedings for an offence under this section shall be brought only by the highway authority or the council of the non-metropolitan district, parish or community in which the offence is committed; and, without prejudice to section 130 (protection of public rights) above, it is the duty of the highway authority to ensure that where desirable in the public interest such proceedings are brought.
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby Lizzie » Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:55 pm

blig, thanks for your response.

That's very interesting and is definitely helping me get a real feel for this problem. I think the issue is then whether the easement - described as a right of way with or without animals - itself constitutes a lawful excuse. I think it might, particularly as when cattle are driven along the track there is no way to avoid them disturbing the public footpath (and as it is now, destroying its surface). Essentially, the 1.5m width of the public footpath sits within a 2m track with thick hedging either side, so any cattle driven along it will damage the footpath which presumably sits in the middle of the track. Are you saying that the local authority's interest in the footpath takes precedence over the historic right of way? If so, how would that work? Would it override it so the historic private right of way could not be used, or would it impose obligations to repair on the user and possibly (and this is where we are concerned) on us as landowners? Make no mistake, we don't want this (the driving of cattle along our footpath) to happen, but I think that (at least with our landowner hat on) we're powerless to prevent it. Thanks again.
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby atticus » Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:59 pm

Further discussion is difficult without knowing the terms of the easement.
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby dls » Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:12 pm

Ask cat?
David Swarbrick (Admin) dswarb@gmail.com - 0795 457 9992
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby Lizzie » Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:13 pm

Hi atticus, thanks for your interest in this issue. The relevant wording in the conveyance is as follows: "... at all times for all purposes with or without vehicles and animals to pass over and along and across the land shown coloured brown on the said plan..." The plan to which the wording "the land shown coloured brown on the said plan" refers indicates the track as discussed. Hope that helps.
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby atticus » Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:39 pm

Does a right to pass and repass with animals really constitute a lawful excuse to damage the surface of the footpath so much as to render it inconvenient etc to use? I am not convinced. A right to use is not a right to damage.
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Re: Liability for Repairs to Public Footpath

Postby blig » Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:49 pm

Are you saying that the local authority's interest in the footpath takes precedence over the historic right of way?

Yes!
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