Highways Act 1980

Ownership of Public Rights of Way
Many people, including path users and land managers believe that public paths and bridleways belong to the landholders whose land they pass over; this is not the case.

  The surface of a highway, whether a public right of way or a road, is owned by the Highway Authority rather than the owner of the land over which it passes.

More information on Path Ownership is available on the Open Spaces Society site. 


Highway Authority's own Public Rights of Way not the landowner of the land over which the path passes.
So what do the Highway Authority's have to do with these Public Rights of Way, and what can we the public expect of the Highway Authority's ?

Highway Authorities have a statutory duty to:

  Section of Act
"assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway for which they are the highway authority" HA1980
s130 (1)
"maintain the highway" HA1980
s41 (1)
What do they have to maintain? HA1980
s263 (1)
"prevent, as far as possible, the stopping up or obstruction of any highway for which they are not the highway authority" HA1980
s130 (3)

signposting rights of way from metalled highways and providing additional signs and waymarks where these are necessary along any path

s27 (2)

ensuring that the legal record of all rights of way, called the ‘definitive map and statement’, is kept up to date

s53 (2)

The Highways Act 1980
The Highways Act 1980 is not available from the HMSO site, however the complete text of the Highways Act is available on the Green Lane Association web site; here are the relevant sections referred to above.

s 36 Highways maintainable at public expense
s 41 Duty to maintain highways maintainable at public expense
s 130 Protection of public rights
s 130a Notices to enforce duty regarding public paths
s 131a Penalty for damaging highways
s 143 Power to remove obstructions from highways

s 62

General power of improvement

CA1968 - s 27

Signposting of footpaths and bridleways