Countryside Access - Advice for Farmers and Landowners
Farmers and landowners have a key role to play in working with the National Park Authority to keep rights of way open and available for public use. All farmers and landowners have responsibility for the rights of way crossing their land and for the public using them.
The network of public footpaths, bridleways and byways are looked after by the Authority's team of National Park Rangers, with assistance from our Voluntary Wardens and Volunteers. Large scale works are carried out by our works team or contractors.
The practical work undertaken by the National Park Authority includes:
- clearing surface vegetation on paths
- undertaking the repair and replacement of gates, stiles and bridges on the network
- signing and waymarking paths so that the public keep to the path
- maintaining access points and information boards to areas of open access land designated under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act)
Landowners’ responsibilities for rights of way include:
- keeping rights of way open and free from obstruction
- keeping stiles and gates on rights of way in a good state of repair
- keeping paths clear of overhanging or side vegetation (i.e.from hedges and tree limbs)
Over the years the National Park Rangers have built up good working relationships with the farming community. Rangers can provide help and advice regarding rights of way and arrange for maintenance work.
Making changes to the path network
Public rights of way are legally protected and cannot be diverted without a legal process involving making a Public Path Order. Landowners may apply to Dartmoor National Park Authority for a permanent diversion of a right of way on their property. Further information about making changes to the path network, or to apply for temporary closure of a public right of way is available here
Gaps, Gates and Stiles
Gates and stiles are normally erected on public rights of way and other paths for the convenience of the landowner. The Authority is committed to increasing the accessibility on the network of paths and trails across the National Park has adopted a policy (PDF 121kb) for dealing with existing structures and for authorising new ones.
Planning permission and public rights of way
If you have a public right of way across your land which will be affected by any proposed development, please contact the Development Management service for advice before submitting your planning application. The granting of planning permission does not allow you to obstruct or extinguish a public right of way. It is the responsibility of the applicant to apply for a diversion or extinguishment of a public right of way to allow development to take place.
This should be done at the same time as submitting a planning application. Applicants should be aware that diversions or extinguishments of public rights of way may not be successful, in which case it would be necessary to revise their plans if it is not possible to make the desired changes to the public rights of way network.
Further help and advice
The National Park Authority maintains public rights of way on behalf of the local Highway Authority, Devon County Council. As such, the National Park Authority has a statutory duty to “assert and protect” the rights of the public to use and enjoy public rights of way. The Authority will always seek to resolve issues as they arise through goodwill and co-operation with farmers and landowners. The Authority is happy to provide advice and information in relation to public rights of way issues and we are always keen to discuss general issues or specific problems. However, where co-operation fails, it is sometimes necessary for us to resort to taking enforcement action.
A map showing the parishes covered by each Ranger and contact details.
Further information about public access.