DEFRA Repeals 2026 Deadline For Rights of Way Registrations

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In a surprise move, DEFRA has announced that the 2026 cut-off date for recording historic rights of way, as set out in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, will be repealed. With such a backlog of rights of way applications within local councils, there was concern among many user groups that the 2026 deadline would see many historic access rights lost to an administrative process, rather than because of rational analysis.

A Defra spokesperson said:

“As we have recognised in our 25 Year Environment Plan, public access is key to connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing.

“The Government has decided to take forward a streamlined package of measures in order to help enhance the way that rights of way are recorded and managed.”

Map access

The Defra statement reads:

‘We will repeal the 2026 cut-off date for recording historic rights of way, as set out in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, to allow more time for paths to be identified and added to the public rights of way network, as well as providing the ‘right to apply’ for landowners to divert or extinguish rights of way in certain circumstances. These measures, along with accompanying guidance, will be implemented as soon as reasonably practical.’

Cycling UK has long been working with other outdoors user groups to help raise awareness of the need to register ‘lost ways’. Sophie Gordon, off-road campaigns officer for Cycling UK said:

“It’s fantastic that the Government has listened to calls from lovers of the outdoors to scrap this arbitrary deadline, which put unnecessary pressure on volunteers striving to save their historic paths. English councils have such a backlog of claims to process that they are only adding an average of one historic bridleway a year to the map. We applaud the work of Ramblers and the British Horse Society in campaigning for the 2026 deadline to be repealed.

“However, with over 49,000 miles of potential unrecorded rights of way, relying on the efforts of volunteer researchers to dig through the archives was always unworkable. We need a more proactive focus from Government on how to improve and link up our rights of way network to reflect how they are being used today, to enable more people to explore the countryside – whether by bike, on horseback or on foot.”

The recently created West Kernow Way route uses paths which are stuck in the backlog of applications for recording. How many more routes might be possible if these historic trails could be reclaimed and recorded for riders?

The repeal of the 2026 deadline is a huge step forward, but the question of how and when historic access rights might be recorded remains. It’s probably too much to hope that it all becomes so much of an administrative headache that someone in Government decides a copy and paste of Scotland’s laws would be easier…

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Hannah Dobson

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I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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  • This topic has 21 replies, 14 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by cloggy.
Viewing 21 posts - 1 through 21 (of 21 total)
  • DEFRA Repeals 2026 Deadline For Rights of Way Registrations
  • Sandwich
    Full Member

    That’s going to annoy a lot of landowners. Gives us a chance to get some more footpaths reclassified from the errors in the 50’s and 60’s.

    zippykona
    Full Member

    Some bridleways I ride turn into a footpath and then back to a bridleway. Would that be something to moan about now?

    mtbfix
    Full Member

    Great that this deadline has been put aside for now. It served an unintended useful job of focusing mind and action though.

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    @zippykona that would be a thing to look to register now: https://www.cyclinguk.org/2026

    ShanAndy
    Full Member

    @Hannah Dobson this is great news. Do you have a link to a DEFRA source on this? For sharing, not because I don’t believe it.

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    @shan andy I had to email them to get them to confirm it. It seems that they’ve emailed various stakeholders on a working group (like Ramblers and Cycling UK) rather than putting out an official release.

    Ewan
    Free Member

    providing the ‘right to apply’ for landowners to divert or extinguish rights of way in certain circumstances

    That doesn’t sound great tho – knowing the Tories, maybe they’re going to make it easy to ditch RoWs and this is just a bone to chuck the rest of us.

    scuttler
    Full Member

    There are some quotes from DEFRA here

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/feb/17/deadline-to-register-englands-footpaths-cancelled-after-public-access-campaign

    2026 Cut Off Date For Historical Evidence Dropped!

    I read this with interest / hope

    “The government has decided to take forward a streamlined package of measures in order to help enhance the way that rights of way are recorded and managed.”

    Hopefully this includes the cumbersome DMMO process that was what the 2026 records project feeds into. In our local authority we had loads of decade-plus old claims (FPs, FPs > BWs) that were never going to get addressed in a timely manner and all that was happening with 2026 was the creation of more work with no obvious actual timeline or budget for assessment and resolution. It felt like the only DMMOs seemingly being serviced concerned large rural property owners trying to re-route footpaths.

    Hopefully all that will change and the work done so far for 2026 will see some action.

    Sandwich
    Full Member

    Some bridleways I ride turn into a footpath and then back to a bridleway. Would that be something to moan about now?

    Those are the very things I was alluding to. Wrongly classified at the parish boundary by The Ramblers who were involved in the survey work.

    bikesandboots
    Full Member

    My immediate reaction was – good; why are they doing this and for who’s benefit?

    as well as providing the ‘right to apply’ for landowners to divert or extinguish rights of way in certain circumstances

    Oh.

    Wasn’t the 2026 deadline a dummy the government stuck in landowners’ mouths at the time so they’d tolerate some other stuff in the 2000 act?

    gk74
    Full Member

    I have a few suspicions around his move from the government, on the face of it the movement of an artificial deadline has a positive connotation, that as a community we won’t have missed the opportunity to record historical trails, however, the reference to a streamlined package of measures in order to help enhance the way that rights of way are recorded leaves me wondering for whose benefit it has been streamlined for?? I will have to await the new measures, along with accompanying guidance and information on the land owners ‘right to reply’ before further judgement.

    glp1
    Free Member

    It will be very interesting to see what the Country Land Owners Association – ‘CLA’have to say about this, and the guidance they issue accordingly.

    ShanAndy
    Full Member

    Understood. That seems a bit odd, but it is DEFRA.

    Thanks for the reply.

    dissonance
    Full Member

    I have a few suspicions around his move from the government

    Yes given the governments links to the large landowners I am dubious as to what they are really up to. Was it just a response to the backlog of cases which most councils have.

    ShanAndy
    Full Member

    I’m a rep on our Local Access Forum, working closely with the council’s Countryside Department who maintain Rights of Way and look after the Definitive Map Modification Orders.

    Both the Forum and the Council have been pushing DEFRA for clarity since the deadline was set. It’s never been clear whether the deadline was submission of the application or for the council to resolve them. Given that the council has something like a 3 year backlog on DMMOs (there are three people for the whole county) and are fairly normal in that, this lack of clarity has a significant impact on what the deadline means. And they’ve had something in the order of a threefold increase in applications over the last couple of years.

    My guess is that this is a tacit admission from DEFRA that the situation is a mess and open to all sorts of challenges. removal of the deadline takes some pressure off councils.

    On the landowners’ right to apply, that’s always been there in the DMMO process. It’s one of the things we see most often. So, it remains to be seen what this actually entails.

    neilthewheel
    Full Member

    I’ve been working with the BHS to record lost routes before the 2026 deadline. Obviously we’re delighted the deadline has been dropped but I am deeply suspicious of the Government’s motives.
    In County Durham, where I live, we have identified over 600 unrecorded or under-recorded old roads and bridle roads and submitted over 300 applications so far. These are being recorded on the register of RoW and DMMO applications at County Hall, which I always understood was the minimum required to ensure they don’t die on “deadline day”. The Council has so far passed 3 of these applications. These were all “easy pickings” with no objections.
    Any objections to orders made would result in a public inquiry and these would then pile up at the Planning Inspectorate. These can take years to deal with even with the low number being gxenerated prior to the campaign to identify them all – I know of some in Co. Durham that took 30 years from application to waymarking.
    I suspect DEFRA has seen the huge flood of applications the deadline produced, decided they could never get them processed and have decided to “consult”, i.e. do sod all of practical value.
    However, the genie is out of the bottle and the people who’ve spent the last few years scouring archives for evidence are unlikely to set it all aside and stop making applications.

    mattsccm
    Free Member

    Just bear in mind when you get political that it was the grinning idiot in power when this was brought about. Them that slashed legitimate RoW for many users and rode roughshod over many local opinions.

    Ewan
    Free Member

    Didn’t Blair also introduce CROW land tho – that’s vastly increased public land access. Yes they could have done more but it was a good effort.

    mattsccm
    Free Member

    Yeah but CROW brought a restrictions that outlawed things whereas it didn’t actually bring much in practice. Looks great in theory and on the surface but rather unjust in many ways.

    cloggy
    Full Member

    Noticed Cycling UK lauded other pressure groups. They’ve been away with the Fairies themselves.

    cloggy
    Full Member

    I was the Mountainbike Rep for Wales on their NAF, stopped when CTC as was got sticky about paying travel costs…., when this legislation was going through. It was worded that one had to get an application accepted [hard enough in itself], not resolved. The legislators weren’t unaware of council resources, or lack there of.
    I also used to serve on BBNP’s LAF and well one cannot be a rep on a LAF. The Rules forbid it. You are there to provide expertise and knowledge not represent any particular user group. I suspect that’s been forgotten as well…
    A couple of years ago I was getting ready to put some initial claims in based on Inclosure Awards, the only evidence one needs to be certain of success [Passed and Enacted by Parliament], when the Council Head of Dept informed me that Wales had never got round to signing off the legislation in the first place….
    Herefordshire’s backlog is well over 20 years. I fought one last year, unusual to be on the other side. They lost. There is a very high bar for success. The vast majority would fail.

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