The Definitive Map and Statement are conclusive evidence in law for the existence of a public right of way. They therefore show what is a right of way, but not what isn’t a right of way. Therefore, it is possible for a Modification Order to be sought to amend the Definitive Map and Statement to add additional public rights of way.
Landowners may counter this process to some extent in several ways, the most important of which is by lodging a map and statement with the Local Authority indicating the ways (if any) they have dedicated as highways.
Statutory Declarations and Plans made under Section 31(6) Highways Act 1980
This legal provision allows landowners to indicate their intention NOT to dedicate any new public rights of way over their land holdings. The result of this is to negate any future Modification Order applications for ‘deemed dedication’ of additional paths, based on user evidence post-dating the deposit. However, it cannot negate evidence pre-dating the deposit.
The deposit initially takes the form of:
(i) a plan of the land holding, showing its location and boundaries and any existing public ways (whether currently recorded on the Definitive Map or not), together with
(ii) a signed statement declaring that the landowner has no intention to dedicate further public paths. This must be followed by a Statutory Declaration to the same effect within 10 years and at 10-yearly intervals thereafter.
Application Register s31(6) Highways Act 1980 (PDF)