Landowner rights and responsibilities

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


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:

Report a public right of way issue

Bulls

Bulls are allowed in a field where a public right of way passes if they are

  • under the age of ten months or
  • 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. 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 and
  • 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 signs be displayed at each access point noting a bull is present in the field.

These warning signs should only be displayed when the bull is present and removed or securely covered when the bull is no longer in the field.

Cropping and ploughing

Crops (other than grass for hay and silage) must not grow on or overhang the minimum width of any footpath, bridleway or byway.  So not 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. This may cause crop damage 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 it is reasonably convenient to use within 14 days of the first disturbance and within 24 hours of any later 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 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.

Minimum/Maximum widths

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).

Electric Fences

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. But, allowances will be made if strict guidelines are followed.  Electric Fence Guidance Note for Landowners outlines the necessary precautions to take if electric fencing is necessary for livestock control, where no other means are practicable.

Dogs

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

Dangerous animals generally

The keeper of an animal may be liable to prosecution if it injures a user. Landowners and occupiers are advised to ensure any animal known to have a tendency to be aggressive is not kept in a field with a public right of way

Misleading signs

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.

Obstructions

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.

Side growth and overhanging vegetation

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

Shooting

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

Gates and stiles

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 get the consent of Cornwall Council before erecting a new stile or gate on a public right of way. For an application form please see: 

For further information, please see Gates and Stiles Guidance Note for Landowners and Users.

Surfacing a Right of Way

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.

Need help?

Most issues can be resolved online, it's the quickest and most convenient way to get help.

Your feedback is important to us

Help us improve our service

Give feedback about your experience