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Avoid the (countryside) walk of shame

14th May 2024 | Agriculture, Estates & Rural Property | Private Client
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We live in an undoubtedly beautiful part of the world. As the weather warms up, the rural areas of the North East and Cumbria can expect hundreds of thousands of visitors, all of them keen to get out and about and discover the natural environment for themselves.  

But, for every hundred people (local and visitor) who respect the countryside, there are a few who put us all to shame. From not closing gates to letting dogs off leads around livestock, blocking farm access during silaging, or, as the recent BBC Lake District Mountain Rescue highlighted, straying off marked paths. The Countryside Code states that “your actions can affect other people’s lives and livelihoods”, so when people don’t respect this, is it any wonder that landowners become frustrated?

I am sure we have all come across paths that are impassable or have been blocked off by the landowner. Until recently, local authorities have been reluctant to take action to keep footpaths clear, but that is changing.

A warning to landowners

South Gloucestershire Council recently prosecuted landowner Mark Skuse for blocking and displaying ‘no entry’ signs over two public footpaths crossing his land. 

He was found guilty of obstructing the public right of way, contrary to Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 and was ordered to pay £5,000 in fines, £1,155 in costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge.

Historically, local authorities have been slow and/or unwilling to take action. The legal world has been left wondering whether this matter will encourage other local authorities to take action in order to keep public footpaths clear and open.  

If you are considering blocking or obstructing a footpath over your land, be aware that doing so is a criminal offence and could end up costing you.

The Code tells us to “Enjoy the outdoors” – everyone’s enjoyment will be enhanced if we check our routes and local conditions and plan our adventures – allowing everyone to have fun and make memories!

For more information, contact Winter Addis at [email protected] or call 01768 347 084.

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