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Rights of way frequently asked questions

Common questions about rights of way.

What is a public right of way?
Public rights of way are ways, often over private land, over which the public have the right to pass and re-pass. Public rights of way are most often, but not exclusively, in rural areas, the pavement alongside the road are not classed as a public right of way and are under the responsibility of the highways department.

May I go where I want?
In most cases you must follow the routes of public rights of way, there is no general right of access to all land. However, other open areas of land including some commons as shown on Ordnance Survey Maps are available for walkers. 

Where can I see the definitive map?
The definitive map of public rights of way is a legal document showing all the registered public rights of way within the City and County of Swansea. The map is normally available for inspection between 8.30am and 5.00pm Monday to Thursday and between 8.30am and 4.30pm on a Friday at the Civic Centre. However we recommend that you make an appointment to ensure one of the team is available.

Does a public right of way cease to exist if it is not used?
No. Public rights of way can only be closed by an official order made by the City and County of Swansea.

What can I do or take with me while on public rights of way?
You can do things which are incidental to the journey, such as stopping to rest, admire a view, take a photograph or draw a sketch for example. You can also take with you things which are usual accompaniments. These may include such items as rucksacks, binoculars or prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs where practicable, provided such items do not cause damage or cause nuisance to other users. Bicycles are not considered a usual accompaniment and are not permitted on public footpaths.

Can I take my dog with me?
Yes, provided you keep it on a lead or under close control on the public right of way, especially on land with livestock. Please be aware that landowners have the right to shoot a dog that is worrying livestock. Dog mess is an eyesore and a health hazard. If you are a dog owner  you have a duty to pick up after your dog in a public place even in remote countryside. Registered blind people are not required to clean up after their guide dogs. 

What are landowner's responsibilities?
Landowners must ensure that they do not obstruct public rights of way that cross their land or cause a nuisance to anyone using them. Generally landowners have the responsibility to maintain gates and stiles in a safe condition on public rights of way across their land. They are also responsible for cutting back overhanging vegetation and ensuring crops do not grow on or alongside the path so as to obstruct it. They must also have regard for public safety, and should not keep any animal considered to be dangerous in an enclosure through which a public right of way passes.

A path I have walked for many years has recently been blocked so that I can no longer use it, what can I do about it?
The path may or may not be a public right of way. If the path is a registered public right of way, we can ask the landowner to remove of the obstruction. 

If the path is not a registered public right of way, a claim may be made to add it to the definitive map.

In either case the problem should be reported to us.

What can I do if I find the way blocked?
You can bypass the obstruction by taking the shortest detour possible to get around it. You may also remove enough of the obstruction to get by it. However, in either case you should be careful not to cause damage and consider not continuing along the path, as you might be held liable for any damage caused. It is best to report the problem to us regardless of whether or not the obstruction is caused by vegetation or is man-made.

What about stiles and gates across public rights of way?
All stiles and gates must be safe to use and must not interfere unreasonably with the use of a public right of way. Stiles that are broken or difficult to use, and any locked gates should be reported to us so that appropriate action can be taken.

In addition, if new stiles or gates appear on public footpaths or bridleways they may require consent and should also be reported to us.

Can an electric fence or barbed wire be erected across a public right of way?
Moveable electric fences play an important part in modern farming. Any electric fence crossing a public right of way must be insulated so that there is no danger of a path user receiving a shock. Electric fences adjacent to rights of way should be clearly labelled as such. It is an offence to place barbed wire across a public right of way. Barbed wire adjacent to a path could be considered to be an offence if placed too close.

For more information read Countryside Access in the City and County of SwanseaOpens new window

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