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Landowner Rights and Responsibilities

Landowners and occupiers have responsibilities for public rights of way on their land in Cornwall, these are listed below.

To report a problem with a public right of way, please use the link below:

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Bulls are allowed in a field where a public right of way passes if they are under the age of ten months or they are not of a recognised dairy breed, over the age of ten months and accompanied by cows or heifers. However, if the temperament of any bull is questionable it should not be allowed in a field where a public right of way passes. Specifically, It is an offence to leave a bull of a recognised dairy breed over the age of ten months at large in a field crossed by a public right of way.  Similarly, any other breed of bull over the age of ten months should not be left at large unless accompanied by cows or heifers. Recognised dairy breeds are Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry. For more information please download the Health and Safety Executive information sheet on Cattle and public access in England and Wales. The Health and Safety Executive recommends that signs should be displayed at each access point noting that a bull is present in the field.  These warning signs should only be displayed when the bull is present and should be removed or securely covered when the bull is no longer present in the field;

Crops, other than grass for hay and silage, must not be allowed to grow on or overhang the minimum width of any footpath, bridleway or byway, so as to inconvenience the public or prevent the line of the public right of way from being apparent on the ground (please see minimum and maximum widths below). Failure to keep a path clear may result in users deviating from the path which may cause greater crop damage in the long run and may result in action being taken against the landowner.

Paths across fields may only be cultivated if there is no reasonable alternative.  The surface of the path must be made good, so that it is reasonably convenient to use within 14 days of the first disturbance and within 24 hours of any subsequent works. (please see minimum and maximum widths below). You must not plough or disturb the surface of footpaths and bridleways at the edge of the field or any byways.  Failure to comply may result in action being taken against the landowner.

For further information please see Ploughing and Cropping on Public Rights of Way.

If the width of a path is recorded on the Definitive Statement, then that is the minimum width.  For ploughing and cultivation if the width is not recorded legally the 'minimum/maximum' width means:

  • For a footpath, a minimum of 1 metre across the field and 1.5 metres on the field edge (1.8 metres maximum);
  • For a bridleway, a minimum of 2 metres across the field, 3 metres on the field edge (3 metres maximum);
  • For a byway, a minimum of 3 metres across the field, 3 metres on the field edge (5 metres maximum).

An electric fence positioned across a public right of way would constitute an obstruction of the right of way whether or not it is electrified. However, allowances will be made if strict guidelines are followed. Electric Fence Guidance Note for Landowners outlines the necessary precautions to be taken if electric fencing is absolutely necessary for livestock control where no other means are practicable.

Any dog which stands on a public right of way and, by its 'threatening behaviour', prevents users from using the path constitutes a public nuisance and is, therefore, considered to be an obstruction.  'Threatening behaviour' may include snarling or running around the user barking in a threatening manner.  Landowners and occupiers must ensure that such dogs are kept under proper control when in the vicinity of a public right of way.

The keeper of an animal may be liable to be prosecuted if it injures a user.  Landowners and occupiers are advised, therefore, to ensure that any animal which they know to have a tendency to be aggressive is not kept in a field with a public right of way.

It is an offence for anyone to place a notice on or near a public right of way which is likely to deter people from using the route.  Failure to comply may lead to prosecution.

Landowners and occupiers should refrain from obstructing any public right of way on their land.  Failure to do so may result in Cornwall Council taking action against them.

Under Section 154 of the Highways Act the landowner or occupier has a duty and responsbility to control and cut back side growth and overhanging and overhead vegetation to ensure that the use of public rights of way is not impeded or inhibited. Cornwall Council, as the Highway Authority, has a duty and responsibility to control surface vegetation (although this is exempt from cultivated crops).

Landowners or occupiers may shoot on land with public rights of way running across them provided that they do not endanger or intimidate users.

Landowners have a duty under Highway Law to maintain stiles and gates on a footpath or bridleway in good order.  Where appropriate, Cornwall Council provides stile and gate kits as its contribution to the cost of repair.  Landowners and occupiers should obtain the consent of Cornwall Council before erecting a new stile or gate on a public right of way. For an application form please see Application to erect a stile or gate on a public footpath or bridleway and for further information, please see Gates and Stiles Guidance Note for Landowners and Users.

Landowners and occupiers should seek authorisation by contacting the Countryside Service before altering the surface of a public right of way.  Failure to do so may result in the surface having to be reinstated at the expense of the landowner or occupier.