Guidance from Defra on Public Rights of Way and access due to Coronavirus COVID-19

Thanks to the NFU and CLA for raising concerns and working with Defra on this. Both organisations have further information for their members on their websites at www.nfu.org and https://www.cla.org.uk/coronavirus

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the
Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.
Government’s guidance on using green spaces.

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Highways Act 1980, Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way.  However, in very limited circumstances, where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following temporary measures:

  • Tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
  • Temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools. (Note: this is a polite request only, and there is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way).
  • Offering a permissive alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so.
    – The original right of way MUST still be maintained.
    – Permission must be obtained from relevant landowners and steps must be taken to make sure the route is safe for users and livestock.
    – It is also necessary to check the insurance position before doing this to ensure that appropriate cover is in place.
  • These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.

Defra approved signage that you can print out and use:

For paths with no alternative route:-

COVID-19 PROW notice

For paths with an alternative route:-

COVID-19 PROW alternative route notice