Any structure on the network that allows access through or across any physical barrier such as a hedge of fence is classified as Furniture. These furniture items include gaps, gates, stiles, bridges and boardwalks, and must be appropriate for the status of the route.
When replacing old or installing new items of furniture, we seek to install the least restrictive access option, whilst taking into consideration the needs of the landowner.
Where a new item of furniture is required the landowner/tenant must first apply for authorisation under section 147 of the Highways Act. from the County Council as Highway Authority.
The Highways Act 1980 section 146(1) states that it is the responsibility of landowners to maintain stiles and gates in safe condition. The Highways authority can help with this, providing at least 25% of the cost for work, contact your local Ranger for information.
Where a new piece of furniture is installed (subject to section 147 approval) the highways authority is not obliged to cover any of the cost as the new gate or stile is not in the public interest as it is adding restrictions to the route.
When replacing old or installing new furniture, North Yorkshire County Council aim, where possible, to provide the most user friendly option available. The Disability Discrimination Act requires us to reduce barriers for the less-able, so a gap is therefore the most desirable, but due to stock control this may not be practicable. Gates are the next best solution, followed by kissing gates and lastly stiles.
There are several gates and stile types and designs, and though there is no statutory design, a British Standard guideline has been produced (BS 5709 Gaps Gates and Stiles). However a gate width (measured between posts) on a bridleway should not be less than 5 feet and on a carriageway not less than 10 feet.
Some kissing gates can be a little more restrictive, making it hard or impossible to use with wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are however, some designs that still allow access for all footpath user groups (see picture above).
Stiles are the most restrictive of furniture items as they do not allow access for either wheel chairs or pushchairs and can be awkward to use for some walkers. They can be made more user friendly by using two steps and hand posts. Dog latches can also be used to ease access.
Where a footpath or bridleway crosses a natural obstruction such as a stream or river, by the means of a bridge the maintenance of that structure is generally the responsibility of the Highway Authority. Bridge design will depend of each individual case.
If a bridge is the means of which a right of way crosses a man-made obstacle like a railway or watercourse the maintenance is then the responsibility of the relevant authority for that obstacle.
If the bridge is privately maintainable or has a higher private status (e.g. has private vehicle access on a public footpath) the responsibility for maintenance of the structure in respect of the higher right is then that of the private owner. This liability also extends to the approaches of the bridge.
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