Private land and managing the public

It is not uncommon for farmers to have rights of way crossing their land which are used by members of the public. This can often cause issues for farmers in two respects: irresponsible use of the land by the public; and issues specific to rights of way.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has recently considered the issue of irresponsible use of the countryside by members of the public and has produced a new blue fencepost sign intended to educate them on how to enjoy the land. Two issues that are frequently raised with regard to the public's use of the countryside are trespassing and not clearing up dog litter. This is what the new sign aims to tackle. This follows the successful introduction of a yellow fencepost sign educating the public on how to handle their dogs when accessing land containing livestock.

On the separate issue of rights of way, the NFU has produced some business guidelines as an aid to farmers on matters such as preventing the acquisition of new public rights of way over farmland, handling livestock and rights of way, cultivation and vegetation on rights of way and changing or extinguishing existing rights of way. Some of the suggested guidelines include:

  • Checking that paths are clearly marked to identify the route of the public right of way;
  • Reinstating cross-field footpaths or bridleways within 14 days of the first cultivation and 24 hours of any subsequent disturbance in order that it is convenient for use;
  • Keeping herds in a field that is not accessed by a public right of way; and
  • Erecting fencing along the edge of the right of way to separate animals and walkers, but ensuring that the right of way is not obstructed to walkers.

If you are experiencing issues or have any queries in relation to a right of way that crosses your private land, please contact our commercial property or agricultural solicitors on 0161 941 4000 or by emailing 

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