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. It required Surveying Authorities (generally County Councils) to prepare maps and statements of public rights of way. Often a long and complex procedure.

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

From this the Council produced a Draft Definitive Map and Statement for Cornwall. This 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 a path was incorrectly drawn. Or the status e.g. footpath, bridleway or byway was incorrect. Or that a route shown was not a public right of way. Or that a path had not been shown.

The consultation on the Draft Definitive Map and Statement resulted in amendments that were re-drafted onto the Provisional Map and Statemen. This then underwent another consultation process. After incorporating these amendments, the first Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way was drawn up.

Subsequently, the Countryside Act 1968 required that roads used as public paths (RUPPs) be reclassified. They could be reclassified as either footpaths, bridleways or byways open to all traffic (BOATs). Cornwall County Council completed this in the 1980s under 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 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 long use and that the way has previously been dedicated by the landowner as a public right of way.

There may be ways recorded in the Definitive Map and Statement which ought to be of a different status or deleted from the Map and Statement. It may be possible that the status of such paths be changed. Or the paths be deleted from the Map and Statement by a Definitive Map Modification Order

Evidence to delete or downgrade the status of a path shown on the Map and Statement must be new evidence. It must be 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 Definitive Map and Statement gives certainty to users and landowners. It provides details of the public rights of way recorded including the:

  • existence
  • status
  • position
  • width

It does not state the existence or otherwise of any private rights of way or easements.  Therefore, it should not be relied on to show the presence of any private rights.

Landowners can talk to the Council about diverting or extinguishing a public right of way from the Definitive Map and Statement.  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’. It 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 to divert paths over their land. (at the request of a landowner). It must meet the tests set out in section 119 of the Highways Act 1980 and the landowner has to agree to meet all 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.

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