Public rights of way

A public right of way is a highway which anybody may use at any time. Rights of way are classified according to the nature of the rights that the public has along them.

Most public rights of way cross private land. Responsibility for them is shared by the landowner and the highway authority.

The landowner is responsible for keeping them free from obstruction and for looking after gates and stiles on the route, whilst the highway authority is responsible for maintaining them in good condition, signing and waymarking them.

Each type of public rights of way is shown on the Definitive Map. This is the legal record of such routes which is held by the Council. It is a series of Ordnance Survey maps with the public rights of way highlighted and an accompanying statement which describes each of the ways. .

The Merseyside Rights of Way Improvement Plan is a 10 year strategic plan adopted jointly by the council and its five neighbouring Merseyside authorities.

On receipt of an application for a change to the definitive map the Council will consider the evidence and decide whether or not it is sufficient to process the claim. This is called a legal event order.

If objections to the order are received then the Council will refer the case to the Secretary of State who may call for a public inquiry.

If the order is confirmed then the Council will make a definitive map modification order to amend the map, if not the applicant has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.

The definitive map is actually several separate maps that show the routes of the individual public footpaths, bridleways and byways recorded within Sefton. These maps, together with the definitive statements for each route, are the legal record of the public's rights along them.

The appearance of a path on the Definitive Map is conclusive proof of its existence in law.

However, the public may have rights over a way not shown on the map and bridle rights may exist along a route shown only as a public footpath.

The original map(s) and the working copies are available for public inspection by appointment during normal office hours at Magdalen House, Bootle. Each of the parish councils in Sefton also hold copies for their area. Contact the council to book an appointment.

You can apply to the council for changes to the definitive map including deletion, addition, or diversion of a route as well as a change to the status of a route.

Since the map is deemed to be legally conclusive proof of the existence of the public rights shown on it, you will need to supply strong evidence to support your claim and there may be a cost incurred.

Contact the public rights of way officer to discuss your concerns.