Sections 53 to 56: Cut-off date for recording certain rights of way on definitive maps and extinguishment of those not so recorded
98.These sections prescribe a cut-off date (1 January 2026) for the recording on definitive maps of footpaths and bridleways created before 1949. The provisions also provide for the extinguishment of certain rights of way which have not been claimed by the deadline. The cut-off date may be extended by regulations made by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales.
99.Section 53 provides that public rights of way over a footpath or bridleway which was created before 1 January 1949, is still a footpath or bridleway on the cut-off date and is not shown on a definitive map on the cut-off date, are to be extinguished immediately after the cut-off date. The section also provides that any unrecorded higher rights of way created before 1 January 1949 over a highway shown on a definitive map on the cut-off date as a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway and which is eligible for recording on a definitive map, will be extinguished immediately after the cut-off date.
100.Section 54 sets out exceptions to section 53. In respect of pre-1949 footpaths and bridleways which are not shown on a definitive map on the cut-off date, the following are not to be extinguished:
as much of a footpath or bridleway as, after 1 January 1949, has been diverted, widened, extended or stopped up as respects only its width, provided it connects with another highway directly or indirectly. If it connects indirectly then as much of the rest of the path as is necessary to connect with the other highway is also saved.
a bridleway which became a footpath after 1949 following the stopping up of bridleway rights, or a footpath which became a bridleway after 1949 by the creation of bridleway rights over it, provided in either case the way connects with another highway as above.
as much of a footpath or bridleway as passes over a bridge or through a tunnel and connects with a highway as above.
a footpath or bridleway any part of which is in inner London.
a footpath or bridleway which runs at the side of a carriageway or between two carriageways.
a footpath or bridleway of any other description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales.
a particular footpath or bridleway specified in regulations.
101.In respect of unrecorded higher rights over ways shown on a definitive map on the cut-off date as footpaths, bridleways or restricted byways the following are not to be extinguished:
higher rights of way (eg bridleway rights over what is shown as a footpath) created after 1 January 1949.
rights of way over a highway any part of which is in inner London.
rights of way specified or of such description as may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales.
102.Section 55 provides that where a highway which was immediately before 1949 a footpath or bridleway and is a footpath on the cut-off date, but is wrongly recorded on a definitive map as a bridleway on commencement of the provisions and remains so recorded at the cut-off date, bridleway rights are created over it. It will not be possible after the cut off date to apply for the bridleway to be downgraded to a footpath but section 56 provides for the making of savings, for example, for applications for modifications made before the cut-off date.
103.Section 56 provides that the cut-off date for the purposes of extinguishing rights of way is to be 1 January 2026. The section empowers the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to make regulations substituting as the cut-off date a date later than 1 January 2026. Different dates may be specified for different areas but, in relation to areas in which rights of way have been recorded on definitive maps since the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 took effect, the date may not be postponed beyond 1 January 2031. There is no upper limit on the period for extending the deadline in relation to other areas. These are the Isles of Scilly; the areas of former county boroughs for which definitive maps were not required until the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 took effect; and built-up areas which county councils were able to exclude from the requirements of the 1949 Act by resolution. Where a highway crosses the boundary between two areas with different cut-off dates, then the later date applies to that highway.
104.Regulations made under section 56 may also make transitional provisions and savings, in particular for cases where (a) definitive map modification orders have been made but not confirmed before the cut-off date; (b) applications for definitive map orders have been submitted before the cut-off date; or (c) orders have been quashed because of a legal error.