Public Rights of Way
New guidance from DEFRA on public rights of way
The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing. But if possible try to avoid using footpaths etc that may take you through a farmstead or other rural business where social distancing may be difficult.
Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:
- tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
- temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.
- offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained.
All our National Trails remain open including newly opened stretches of England Coast Path, however people must follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.
Update from Dorset Council 31.03.20
Dorset has almost 3,000 miles of rights of way criss-crossing the county, giving access to the countryside via footpaths, bridleways, trailways and cycleways.
These provide a very useful resource for people under the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions to complete their one form of daily exercise, while social distancing. Maintained by Dorset Council and landowners, these paths should not be blocked or obstructed and cannot legally be closed to the public.
Many of these paths cross agricultural or forestry land. So, if you are using them be mindful of the restrictions, keep to the Rights of Way, ensure gates are closed, dogs are kept under close control and on leads where required and you clear up after your dog – taking your dog’s waste home with you to place into your household dustbin. Dog’s faeces can carry germs that are harmful to livestock.
Travel for exercise is not essential travel and you should use paths that you can access from your home. Where rights of way pass close to, or through residential and agricultural properties, it is important that the existing Government advice regarding social distancing and hand washing is followed.
If there is a particular problem with people gathering on rights of way or cycleway/ walking trails, then the Police should be informed. They have the power to disperse any groups behaving in such a way.