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Maintaining and Protecting Rights of Way

Landowners, Occupiers and the Council all have responsibilities in relation to keeping public paths open and available.


In addition to providing excellent outdoor recreational opportunities and access to nature the Vale of Glamorgan Countryside is a working environment.


Management of public paths and land crossed by them can therefore involve a careful balance between the rights of the public and the needs of those involved in working the land.



Animals that the keeper knows to be dangerous should not be kept in fields that the public has access to. If such an animal causes injury to a member of the public using a right of way an offence may be committed and the occupier could be sued by the injured party.


  • Bulls and Cattle

    It is an offence for an occupier to permit a bull to be at large in a field or enclosure crossed by a public right of way except where:

    • The bull does not exceed the age of 10 months or

    • The bull is not a recognised dairy breed and is accompanied by cows or heifers



    The recognised dairy breeds are: Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry.


    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regularly investigate incidents involving cattle and members of the public on rights of way and report that most arise when suckler cows and calves are at large in fields. The HSE provide a summary report and guidance for the public and for farmers in the HSE Agriculture Information Sheet.


    The guidance also includes useful information as to the form and contents of signs that could be used to indicate the presence of animals.

  • Dogs

    Information for users of rights of way with dogs can be found in the Using Rights of Way section.

    Dog on the coast


    Dogs that are kept on land affected by a public right of way should not prevent users from using the path by acting in a threatening or intimidating way. Where dogs are allowed to do so this constitutes a public nuisance and may be considered an obstruction.


Dangerous Land adjoining a Public Right of Way  

From time to time the Council encounters unfenced dangers on adjoining land which present hazards to path users.


The Council has a duty to protect path users from such dangers and will in the first instance enter into dialogue with the owner of the adjacent land to urge them to remove or adequately fence the danger. The Council can require the owner of the dangerous land to carry out the necessary works by service of notice.


If the owner does not comply with the notice the Council may carry out the work and recover the costs from the owner.

Misleading Signs and Notices Erected on Public Rights of Way

Misleading and unlawful signs can deter people from lawfully exercising their right to use public paths and the Council has a duty to prevent such occurrences. Unlawful signs erected on a Public Right of Way can be removed by the Council. 

Ploughing and Cropping

Where ever possible ploughing of Public Rights of Way should be avoided. Public paths should never be ploughed if they are:


  • Along the field-edge
  • Cross-field Restricted Byways
  • Cross-field Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs)

Cross-field Public Footpaths and Public Bridleways may be ploughed if it is not reasonably convenient to avoid them. Where this occurs they must be indicated on the ground and made reasonably convenient to use within either:


  • 14 days for the first disturbance of the cropping cycle
  • 24 hours for any further disturbance such as harrowing and drilling

The minimum path width that should be reinstated or left uncultivated where ploughing is not permitted is shown below:





Public Footpath



Public Bridleway



Restricted Byway



Byway Open to All Traffic



After ploughing the occupier of the land has a duty to continue ensuring the line of the path is kept cut to its minimum width and indicated to users throughout the growing season. This also includes preventing encroachment into the path from the sides.

Structures and Fencing

A key objective for the highway authority is to improve access along public rights of way, applying a policy of least restrictive access when considering an application for, or the replacement of, a structure across a public right of way.


In practice this means that:

  • existing structures are inspected to ensure that they are appropriate, in a good state of repair and meet structure specifications
  • where structures are found to be in disrepair it is normally the landowner's duty to repair them, and they may also be asked to replace them
  • we will refer to historical records to check if there is evidence of a structure in a specific location
  • our aim is to have a minimum necessary number of structures on the rights of way network and to progressively replace stiles.




  • Barbed Wire

    Barbed wire should be covered, or barbs removed, near structures such as stiles and gates. Where it is alongside a public right of way, barbed wire should be fixed on the far side of the posts, facing away from the path. Barbed wire or any other metal structure that is not part of a fence (for example, handrail on a bridge) should not be electrified. 
  • Electric Fencing

    ElectricFenceWarning signs must be displayed at regular intervals where electric fencing is used. If a temporary electric fence needs to cross the line of a public footpath, insulated handles must be provided to allow people to pass through and continue along the legal line of the path. 
    Installation of electric fencing should be avoided across or adjacent to bridleways, restricted byways or byways open to all traffic as it presents a serious hazard to horses.




  • Fencing

    New fences erected across a public right of way are obstructions even if installed with stiles or gates unless those stiles or gates have been authorised by the Council.



    No fencing of any kind may be constructed to encroach into the width of a public right of way. Please consult with the PROW Team before constructing any fences adjacent to the right of way.

  • Stiles and Gates

    The Highways Act 1980 places the responsibility for the maintenance of existing structures on public rights of way on the landowner and in doing so a landowner is entitled to claim a 25% contribution from the Council. In practice landowners with structures that require repair or replacement should contact the Council to arrange assistance with any necessary work.

    Applications for the Council to authorise new structures are only able to be considered on the grounds of either stock control or user safety. We will only consider applications for new stiles on rare occasions, as pedestrian and kissing gates offer a less restrictive access option for route users.


Authorisation for new Stiles and Gates

StileInstallation of new stiles and gates on a public right of way requires authorisation from the Highway Authority (Council) under Highways Act 1980 section 147.


The Authority may only grant authorisation for furniture where it is required for the purposes of agriculture (i.e.stock control) or forestry. Authorisation may be granted subject to conditions or unconditionally.


The Authority should also have regard for the needs of disabled people when granting authorisation including applying principles of ‘Least Restrictive Access’.Kissing Gate


Limitations to access (such as stiles or gates) erected without authorisation are considered obstructions. The Highway Authority has a statutory obligation to protect and assert the public’s rights where obstructions exist.


Access this S147 Authorisation Form in order to make an application for the erection of furniture of a Public Right of Way.

Surfaces of Public Rights of Way         

It is an offence to interfere with the surface of a Public Right of Way to the detriment of users. This means that a landowner or occupier may not dig up or even re-surface a Public Right of Way without the prior authorisation of the Council.


Landowners or occupiers must ensure that their private use of the route; for example in motorised vehicles, does not damage the surface of the Public Right of Way. If damage is caused it must be re-instated by the landowner or occupier.


Trees and Vegetation 

  • Invasive Species

    If you are a farmer or landowner, the information on wild plants on the GOV.UK website will tell you which wild plants you need to take action against and watch out for, and which ones you must protect.

  • Overhanging Vegetation

    Landowners and managers are responsible for the maintenance of side vegetation, such as hedges and trees, on or by the side of a public right of way, to ensure that it does not encroach onto the public path. Any branches overhanging a right of way should not obstruct users, and have a minimum height clearance of 3.75 metres on bridleways.


    If works need to be undertaken on a tree the Council should be consulted in case a Temporary Path Closure is needed and to check to ensure the trees concerned are not subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).


    Where a tree or overhanging branches present an immediate hazard to path users, the rights of way team may require work to be undertaken or carry it out directly and recharge the owner.

  • Surface Vegetation

    It is the Council’s responsibility to clear vegetation from the surface of public rights of way. In doing so the Council operates an annual clearance scheme on priority routes. The Council also undertake cutting on other routes reactively.