Electric fence guidance notes for landowners

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.


Safety First

Where an electric fence is placed across a public right of way, or closely bordering one, the public must not be exposed to the risk of receiving any shock. Irrespective of whether the fence is across or bordering the public right of way, it must be clearly identified as being electrified. This means appropriate warning signs must be displayed where the fence crosses the right of way or where the fence runs alongside the right of way. The signs should be displayed and repeated at intervals of 50 metres or less. Users should be able to pass through or over the fence in safety.

Report a public right of way issueTemporary Fences and Public Footpaths

On public footpaths where the user has a right on foot, only the use of a single strand of electrified fence to control stock is generally acceptable under the following conditions:

  • There must be a means of breaking the electric current at the crossing point of the public footpath. Providing a safe option such as an expandable type barrier gate with insulated handle which can easily and safely be released by all users.
  • Where the fence crosses the public footpath, the electrified fence must be insulated with tubing to a width of no less than one metre.
  • Hazard warning signs need to be in place. This will clearly identify the fence as being electrified to users.

Permanent Fences and Public Footpaths

If the electric fence is used to permanently control livestock, a gate or stile should be erected at the point where the right of way crosses. This will need to be authorised by Cornwall Council (for the ingress and egress of animals for agricultural purposes). Under Section 147 of the Highways Act 1980. Please download and complete the application form to erect a stile or gate on a public footpath or bridleway.

The electric fence should be:

  • in insulated tubing prior to being fastened to one of the rails on a stile
  • insulated to a width of no less than one metre either side of the structure.

Electric Fences and Public Bridleways

There is no legal reason why electric fences may not be used alongside a bridleway. However, it is difficult to envisage how they may be arranged to allow horse riders to pass through safely. It is difficult and potentially dangerous for riders to disengage a spring held grip hook while keeping control of their mount. If it is absolutely necessary to run an electrified fence at right angles to a bridle gate, landowners must ensure that enough space is available for the rider to manoeuvre a led horse while opening and closing the gate. It is essential that there is no risk of the horse touching the live fence. The fence will also need to be insulated within the vicinity of the gate and for a sufficient length either side of the gate opening to prevent this from happening. The fence will also need the appropriate signing as above.

If it is not possible to provide sufficient space, then electric fencing must not be used under any circumstances.

Electric Fences and Public Byways

Cornwall Council will not allow electric fences to be placed across a public byway.

Landowners Public Liability Insurance

In the event of a user of a public right of way coming into contact with an uninsulated electric fence and suffering harm as a result, it is possible the injured person could sue for damages against the person responsible for erecting the fence. Public liability insurance must be kept up to date.

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