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Welcome for plans to simplify rural planning

An expert in rural law has welcomed a move by the Government which would allow homeowners to relocate historic rights of way on their land.

An expert in rural law has welcomed a move by the Government which would allow homeowners to relocate historic rights of way on their land.

The plans were put into place following calls from campaigners who pointed to walkers using historic routes which often take in modern gardens or lie very close to properties.

In addition to the existing rights registered, additional routes may be applied to be registered as rights of way if they have been used by the public for 20 years or more.

Under the plans, ramblers would find it easier to open up rights of way, requiring them to apply to their local council rather than directly to the Government’s environment secretary.

However, property owners would also be given the right to ask for existing and new paths to be diverted so it goes around a disputed piece of property, rather than across it. Such a request would be expected to be accepted under the plans, currently being drawn up.

Andrew Holden, head of Rural at Napthens solicitors, welcomed the plans.

He said: “Anything which simplifies what has become a complex and costly process is to be welcomed. Diverting a right of way and proving a new route is expensive, and can take a substantial amount of time.

“Under the existing system the cost of applying to divert a route was often needed up front, but there was no guarantee of success.

“Homeowners should also be looking to protect themselves against new claims as well as reacting to existing ones. This can be done by submitting what is known as a statutory deposit, a declaration by the landowner with an attached plan showing any rights of way over their land that it is agreed the public should have access to.

“This, along with physical steps such as locking gates and erecting signs, has proven sufficient in defeating any potential future claims.”