History of the Definitive Map and Statement

The Definitive Map was prepared under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. This required Surveying Authorities (generally County Councils) to prepare maps and statements of public rights of way, an often long and complex procedure.

In Cornwall, the Parish and Town Councils each carried out a survey in the 1950s of the public rights of way in their area, in which they recorded and described all of the paths they believed to be public rights of way. The original map and statement, drawn and written by the Parish and Town Councils, is known as the Original Parish Survey.

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From this information the Council produced a Draft Definitive Map and Statement for Cornwall, which was sent to all Parish Councils and advertisements were placed in the local press. The advert enabled landowners and users to object if they felt that a path was incorrectly drawn, that the status e.g. footpath, bridleway or byway was incorrect, that a route shown was not a public right of way or that a path had not been shown.

The outcome of the consultation on the Draft Definitive Map and Statement resulted in amendments, which were re-drafted by Cornwall Council onto the Provisional Map and Statement. This underwent another consultation process and, after incorporating these amendments, the first Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way were drawn up.

Subsequently, the Countryside Act 1968 required that roads used as public paths (RUPPs) be reclassified as either footpaths, bridleways or byways open to all traffic (BOATs). Cornwall County Council completed this in the 1980s under a procedure called the Limited Special Review. Consequently, there are no longer any RUPPs in Cornwall.

Where a 'way' is not shown on the Definitive Map and Statement, this does not necessarily mean that it is not a public right of way. Such a path may be an 'unrecorded' public right of way where there is evidence that rights have accrued by virtue of long use or where there is evidence that the way has previously been dedicated by the landowner as a public right of way.

There may also be ways which are recorded in the Definitive Map and Statement which ought to be recorded as a way of a different status or which ought to be deleted from the Map and Statement. It may be possible that the status of such paths may be changed or the paths may be deleted from the Map and Statement by a Definitive Map Modification Order. However, the evidence that is required to delete or downgrade the status of a path shown on the Map and Statement must be new evidence that is sufficient to counter the fact that the path will have been recorded in the map and statement for a period in excess of 50 years.

The purpose of the Definitive Map and Statement is to give certainty to users and landowners as to the existence, status, position and width of public rights of way that are recorded therein. It does not indicate the existence or otherwise of any private rights of way or easements and should not be relied on to demonstrate the presence of any private rights.

Landowners who wish to amend or remove a public right of way from the Definitive Map and Statement may alternatively choose to consider asking the Council to divert or extinguish the way.  A public right of way can only be legally diverted or extinguished by an operative Public Path Order. An operative Public Path Order is a ‘legal event’ which allows the Council to amend the Definitive Map and Statement to indicate the changes made by the Public Path Order.  Cornwall Council will make, confirm and bring into operation Public Path Orders at the request of a landowner to divert paths over their land where these meet the tests set out in section 119 of the Highways Act 1980 and where the landowner has agreed to meet all of the Council’s costs. In some circumstances the Council will consider proposals for extinguishing rights of way against the tests set out in section 118 of the Highways Act 1980.