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Detailed Practice Notes written by our Professional Support Lawyers, guiding you through the key issues in each topic.
Definitive map and modifications - overviewDefinitive map
Every highway authority must keep a definitive map and statement of the public rights of way in its area. The definitive map is a legally conclusive record of the public rights of way in one of four categories (footpath, bridleway, road used as a public path or byway open to all traffic) shown upon it at the date the map was produced, known as the relevant date. The map is accompanied by a statement that describes each right of way in greater or lesser detail.
The surveying authority is usually the county council or metropolitan district council for the area. In some counties district councils act as agents for the county council, but the responsibility remains with the county council. In Greater London the surveying authority is the London borough council, although the 12 inner London borough councils and the City of London do not have to have a definitive map. In those areas where unitary authorities have been created, the unitary authority is also the surveying authority.
The definitive map and statement must be kept available for inspection free of charge in each district.
Surveying authorities are under a requirement to keep the map and statement under continuous review. Where evidence comes to light to suggest the definitive map and statement should be amended, the surveying authority is obliged to do so. This is done by means of a legal process known as a definitive map modification order.
The events and orders that will require modification of the definitive map and statement are, generally, changes to a highway, new paths or restricted byways, presumptions on dedication of routes as public paths, evidence of paths not currently on the map, evidence of different descriptions of highways on the map, evidence there is no public right of way over land or other particulars.
The procedure for making a modification order depends on whether the order is to be made on the authority’s own initiative or because of an application coming in from outside.
The main highways law issues concerning bridge and tunnels are as to the:
rights of the public to pass and re-pass across bridges or through tunnels
maintenance liability for them
There are four types of highway bridge:
a bridge carrying a highway across a natural feature such as a river or a ravine. This is a highway and the public's rights to cross are clear. Responsibility for maintenance will depend on when the bridge was built
a bridge carrying a highway across a man-made feature such as a railway or a canal. This is a highway and the public's rights to cross are clear. Responsibility for maintenance will depend on when the bridge was built
a bridge carrying a highway across another highway. There are public rights both across the bridge and under it. Maintenance is the responsibility of the authority that built the bridge
a bridge carrying across a highway something that is not itself a highway, eg a railway or canal over a highway. Consent for new structures is required from the highway authority. Maintenance liability depends on who built it and when
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