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Public Path Orders - diverting or removing a path

Due to the high number of diversion applications currently being processed, Dorset County Council operates a waiting list for new applications. It should be noted that, whilst the council has a power to process diversions, this is not a statutory duty and as such only limited resources can be allocated to it.

Diverting and Extinguishing Rights of Way

Public rights of way can only be changed by legal order.

If a public right of way is affected by a development it should be diverted or stopped up by a Public Path Order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (opens in a new window). Where there are no planning issues and you want to move (divert) or delete (extinguish) a public footpath, bridleway or restricted byway on your land you can apply to Dorset County Council for a public path diversion or extinguishment order under the Highways Act 1980. (opens in a new window).

Diversions - Section 119 of the Highways Act 1980

You may either divert a public path onto another route elsewhere on your land or onto somebody else's land but you may have to pay them compensation. You will be responsible for the cost of any physical works involved in bringing the new route up to the required standard, for example the installation of gates or surfacing.

  • the new path must link to the old path either directly or via another highway
  • you cannot divert the whole path onto another highway - that would be an extinguishment

The new path has to be at least as convenient to the public as the old one. We also have to bear in mind the needs of nature conservation and of agriculture (which includes the keeping and breeding of horses).

Extinguishments - Section 118 of the Highways Act 1980

A public path can only be extinguished if you can show that the path is not needed for public use. The Courts have found that where the public is using a path, even occasionally, then it is needed and an extinguishment order cannot be confirmed.

Do not be tempted to block a public right of way off so people cannot use it and then apply for an extinguishment. Temporary circumstances preventing or diminishing use of the path by the public are disregarded. "Temporary circumstances" have been found by the Courts to include a building - the general rule is that if it can be cleared by a JCB, then it is temporary.

Administration charges for Public Path Orders

Administration charges

£3000 for processing an application for a public path diversion or extinguishment order.
Adjacent paths that can be considered at the same time and included in the same order are charged at £2000 per path.

Other charges that might apply

  • the advertising costs for dealing with the application - the legislation requires us to advertise the order in a local newspaper and then if the order is confirmed you must also pay the cost of advertising the confirmation (this varies with the newspaper and length of advert required)

  • the cost of any works for creating the new right of way and bringing it into a suitable condition

  • compensating anyone who is affected by your proposals

The legislation allows us to delay confirming the order or referring the order to the Secretary of State (if there are objections) until you pay the invoice.

The administration charges (plus the cost of the first advertisement) are payable after an order has been made and advertised.

A second invoice for the cost of the second advertisement will be sent after the order is confirmed and advertised in the local newspaper.

The Order will not come into effect until the Senior Ranger has certified that any work necessary to the new path has been completed and it is fit for public use.

You may be entitled to a refund where we:

  • do not confirm an order where there are no objections

  • do not send the order to the Secretary of State for confirmation, where there are objections, without first obtaining your consent

  • make an invalid order

Please contact the Regulation Team for more information and for an application form. 

Please note that Dorset County Council is not responsible for public rights of way in Bournemouth or Poole. If your application relates to a public right of way in this area please contact the relevant Borough council.

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