Treat Public Rights of Way the Right Way - Key advice on footpath use for farmers and the public, to avoid damage to crops, livestock and the local environment.
As a result of people staying at home this past year and exercising locally, many farmers and landowners have experienced drastic increases in the use of Public Rights of Way (PRoWs). With spring and warmer weather now on the way, it is anticipated footpaths will see greater activity over the coming months. We are keen to highlight the importance of acting responsibly on footpaths and PRoWs, to ensure better outcomes for all. Here Nick Mullins, Graduate Rural Surveyor, provides key considerations for landowners and the public alike.
“The majority of the public say they have appreciated local green spaces more since social distancing came in. In many respects this is great news, and footpaths and other PRoWs can be a wonderful opportunity to showcase British agriculture to the general public. However, to some they can be a nuisance.
“As a farmer, there are a number of very important things to consider if you have a Public Right of Way crossing your land. These include:
- Safety – we all care about the safety of the public and livestock. Have you done a risk assessment of your land? This is a legal requirement for anyone employing over 5 people but recommended for all. Farmers need to do everything possible to reduce the risk to the public.
- If an animal is known to be more aggressive, don’t put it on a field with a PRoW. Consider whether they should leave the herd and possibly be culled (then the problem isn’t being sent to another farm).
- Are there other fields the livestock could go on?
- Ensure that boundaries are stock proof.
- Try to avoid putting cows and calves on PRoW.
- Bulls can’t be on footpaths without a herd, and no dairy bulls are allowed on footpaths.
- Signage – think carefully about the signs you choose to put up. You cannot put up signs that indicate a danger or threat, or ones which try to put people off using the footpath. Use notices and signs to tell the public what’s happening. Explain the reason for needing to keep dogs on leads, for instance if there is stock in a particular field. Bear in mind, this is an opportunity to sell British agriculture to the consumer.
- Maintenance – it is the responsibility of the landowner or farmer to maintain the PRoW (tenants should check their tenancy agreement for their obligations). In theory, the local highways authority should make a 25% contribution to the repair of stiles and gates. However, this unfortunately can prove a challenge but it could be worth contacting them.
- Relocation – if a PRoW comes through an area of high agricultural activity, consider applying for the PRoW to be moved. There is a legal procedure for this which can be lengthy and isn’t guaranteed. Alternatively, you can think about relocating livestock handling and feeding away from the PRoW.”
Nick concludes with some final tips for anyone using public rights of way:
- “Be considerate and polite – you are walking through someone’s land and they are trying to run a business. Please stick to footpaths and keep dogs on leads. Pay attention to signs.
- Leave gates as you found them.
- Clear up dog mess, as worms in dog faeces can cause harm to livestock. Please then take the bag home too - no one wants to see it hanging from a fence or tree.”
If you have any questions or would like to know more, Nick Mullins can be contacted at the Borderway office of H&H Land & Estates on 01228 406260, or at: email@example.com.