Rights of way and development

Information that developers need to know if they are carrying out work affecting a public right of way.

Developers need to take public rights of way into account when submitting planning applications.

Rights of way can be diverted under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990, if they will be affected by development, such as a housing estate. If you are considering development that will affect a right of way, contact the relevant planning officer for advice. Housing and small developments are usually dealt with by district councils, while minerals and other larger developments are usually dealt with by our planning department.

The location and status of rights of way can be checked either through a land charges search or by making an appointment to see the definitive map at County Hall, Northallerton.

Developers must ensure that:

  • routes are protected, or suitable alternatives provided, both during and after development
  • the character of the route or its replacement must be protected, in terms of safety, directness, attractiveness and convenience
  • new links into the network can also be provided to improve sustainable travel to, from and around the development

Guidance states that:

  • planning permission does not mean that an order will automatically be made or confirmed, and that, even when planning permission has been granted and development has begun, affected rights of way should be kept open until an order has come into effect
  • developers should not use footpaths, bridleways or restricted byways for vehicular access to the site
  • development affecting a public right of way must be advertised in a local newspaper and by posting notices on site
  • wherever possible, new lines for rights of way should pass through landscaped or open spaces away from traffic, and should be generally acceptable to the public. Estate roads and footways should not be used to provide a new line for an existing right of way unless there is no other option

If a development will affect a right of way, developers should contact the public rights of way team to discuss proposals. If the proposed changes are significant, it may also be worth discussing the matter with landowners and the community.

If a diversion or stopping up order is required, it will be dealt with by the relevant planning authority. It can take about six months to process if the order is straightforward. If there are objections, the process can take much longer and may be decided at a public inquiry. The developer will be charged for processing and advertising the order.

It is an offence to disturb or obstruct a right of way. If works need doing that will disturb or obstruct a right of way, permission must be obtained from us and an application made for a temporary closure order.

While rights of way should not be used for vehicular access to sites, there will be times where upgrading a private vehicular access along a right of way is necessary. To change the surface of a right of way, you need planning consent and authorisation from ourselves.

Further information

Temporary closures and how to apply

By law, we have the powers to temporarily close public rights of way. We can only do this if it is necessary for works to be carried out, and a suitable alternative route must be provided for the public to use. Pedestrian access to properties must not be obstructed.

  • under section 14(1) of the road traffic act, public rights of way can be closed for up to six months (requests must be submitted at least six weeks before the closure is required)
  • section 14(2)a of the road traffic act allows for short-term closures for up to five consecutive days, including weekends (requests must be made two weeks in advance of when the closure is required)
  • under section 14(2)b of the road traffic act public rights of way can be closed in an emergency for up to 21 days; the path must be inaccessible or dangerous to the public for the council to use an emergency closure and closure will be effective from the next working day

Costs for temporary closures can be found in the application form.

Requests for temporary closures must be made in writing, enclosing a plan showing the route to be closed and alternative routes. Please contact us for more information or to apply for a temporary closure.

You can read more on our Temporary Closure Guidance Notes page