Public rights of way

Blackburn and Darwen have over 500km of public rights of way - the majority being footpaths. A public right of way is a class of public highway and may be used by members of the public at any time to pass and repass.

Public rights of way come into existence through dedication by the landowner. In some cases, a landowner may decide to dedicate a route over his/her land to the public. This is known as express dedication and is rare.

In the majority of cases, a public right of way can be created because it can be inferred from the actions of the landowner that he/she intended to dedicate a public right of way over their land. This is known as inferred or implied dedication and includes situations whereby members of the public have had uninterrupted use of a route for 20 years or more.
If you currently use a route that is not recorded on our definitive map, you may apply for it to be recorded under section 53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

It is a criminal offence to wilfully obstruct a public right of way. If you encounter an obstruction on a public right of way, please report it to us and we will seek the removal of the obstruction.

Report a problem with a public right of way

Public rights of way are classified according to who can use them:

  • Public footpaths may be used on foot only. You are allowed to take a pram, pushchair or wheelchair along a public footpath; however in many cases, the nature of the footpath may be unsuitable for them.
  • Public bridleways may be used by walkers, horse riders and cyclists. Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders.
  • Restricted byways are open to walkers, horse riders, cyclists and carriage drivers but not vehicular traffic.
  • Byways open to all traffic (BOATs) are carriageways. They are maintained to the level of an adopted road and may or may not be surfaced; therefore it may be unsuitable for normal road traffic. They are a right of way for:
    • vehicular traffic
    • pedestrians
    • horse riders
    • cyclists.

The only byway open to all traffic in the borough has a legal order in place preventing its use by vehicle traffic.

Council responsibilities

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council is responsible for ensuring that:

  • The public rights of way network is open and accessible to the public at all times.
  • The surfaces of rights and way are maintained to a standard that is appropriate for the type of user that is entitled to use them, i.e. footpaths must be suitable for walkers and bridleways must be suitable for walkers and horse riders. These routes are often in the rural areas and across green spaces; the majority have a natural surface, and can be rough and boggy underfoot.
  • Public rights of way are correctly signed and waymarked to ensure that members of the public have a clear idea of the routes that are available to them.
  • The rights of the public to use and enjoy rights of way are protected.
  • The definitive map and statement, the legal record of public rights of way in Blackburn and Darwen, is kept under constant review.

Landowner and occupier responsibilities

Landowners and occupiers of land are responsible for ensuring that:

  • they are aware of the public rights of way that cross their land and know where they are
  • all public rights of way that cross their land are free from obstructions such as locked gates, fences, unlawful livestock etc.
  • vegetation that grows on their land is cut back and not allowed to encroach on the public right of way
  • authorised gates and stiles are in a good state of repair
  • there are no misleading or intimidating signs on public rights of way across their land for example “dangerous dog” or “private road”

Landowner or tenants may not:

  • install cattle grids on the right of way
  • relocate the line of the path, or reduce the width or the path
  • alter way markers or fingerposts
  • park vehicles, or store any machinery or materials on the path
  • alter the drainage onto the path or install ditches along or across the path

The council must be contacted for authorisation before:

  • the surface of the public right of way is altered in anyway
  • any new furniture (gates and stiles) on the right of way are installed or changed.