The Public Rights of Way group looks after public footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic across the city, as well as large areas of access land. Our paths are a mixture of rural, woodland, open space, moorland, river corridors urban fringe and some urban and are mainly sign posted with their recorded status from the roadside.

Our responsibilities include:

  • maintaining paths, signs, stiles, gates, bridges, overgrowth, surfaces
  • protecting your rights to use Public Rights of Way
  • definitive map and Statement
  • closing and diverting paths temporarily or permanently
  • claimed paths are well used paths not recorded as public
  • adopt a path – volunteers help look after paths
  • open access (Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000)
  • statutory registers relating to the definitive map
  • Local Access Forum advises us on countryside access matters

Report motorcycles on footpaths

Contact South Yorkshire Police about motorcyclists using Public Rights of Way unlawfully.

Maintaining paths

We are responsible for:

  • signing public paths from the roadside
  • way marking public paths away from the road where we believe it to be necessary to be able to follow the correct route.
  • maintaining the surfaces of public paths, although many are just grass
  • maintaining bridges, gates and stiles across public paths
  • keeping vegetation from obstructing public paths
  • keeping trees on paths in a safe condition

Please contact us if you encounter any maintenance or signing problems on public paths.

Path construction details & path furniture

In normal situations you will require approval from the Public Rights of Way Group to carry out works on a public path even if you are the landowner.

There is a variety of gates, stiles and footbridges available that are suitable to use on public paths that can be purchased from suppliers or built on site.

Please ensure you contact us before carrying out any work on public paths, as you will have to have the works approved. It may be essential for you to temporarily close the path to protect the public and yourself. This will require a legal order, which has a charge attached.

Protecting your rights

We are responsible for ensuring that landowners and others do not affect your right to use public paths. We can take action against people who block or damage paths or who do something that stops you from using them. Some problems you may find include:

  • gates that are locked
  • stiles that are blocked
  • landowners and farmers telling you there is no path
  • 'private' or 'keep out' signs on or near paths
  • paths that are churned up by vehicles
  • fences or walls that are put up across paths
  • bulls on their own or dangerous dogs on or near paths
  • barbed wire or electric fences alongside paths
  • paths that are ploughed up or blocked by crops

Please contact us if you find any of these problems on or near public paths. If you come across a problem that is not on this list then please contact us anyway to see if we can help. We would advise you that in certain circumstances we cannot take direct action ourselves but can only advise people of the problem. Some specific issues can only be dealt with either by a civil action by yourself or by other parties.

Public Rights of Way Definitive Map & Statement

The Definitive Map and Statement (DM) are the legal documents that records the paths we look after. Due to the size of Sheffield we have 4 Definitive Maps covering:

  1. Former Sheffield City area
  2. Stocksbridge Urban District Council
  3. West Riding of Yorkshire Parish of Bradfield and Parish of Ecclesfield
  4. North East Derbyshire Parish of Beighton and Parish of Eckington (part)

The documentation of a path on the Definitive Map is conclusive evidence in law that a Public Right of Way exists. If a path is not shown it does not mean that it is not public, it may have rights but they are not yet recorded or formalised.

The Definitive Map shows:

  • public footpaths - used by walkers
  • public bridleways - right of way for horse riders, walkers and pedal cyclists
  • cycle tracks - right of way for pedal cyclists and walkers, most are shared use but a few are segregated
  • byways open to all traffic - right of way for all users including vehicles, most have an unmade surface or even earth and may not be easily passible in poor weather
  • restricted byways - right of way for walkers, pedal cyclists, horse riders including horse drawn carriages, but not for motor vehicles

PROW Definitive Map terms & definitions

  • Public Highway - a strip of land over which the public has the right to pass and re-pass according to its status. Public Rights of Way and public roads are all types of Public Highway
  • Unrecorded Public Path - a route which is public but which is not recorded on the Definitive Map
  • Unadopted Public Path - a path that is public but is maintained by the landowner, not by Sheffield City Council
  • Permissive Path - a path that is available to be used by permission of the landowner but is not public
  • Unclassified County Road - a public road which is not classified as an A, B or C road and is usually narrow 
  • Green Lane - a descriptive term for an unsurfaced track, usually bounded by hedges, walls or fences. Such a route may or may not be a public highway
  • Claimed Path - a path that may be public but which is, as yet, unproven, as we are still assessing the evidence
  • White Road - a track between boundaries shown on Ordnance Survey maps as uncoloured, that may or may not be a public highway and may or may not have public vehicular rights

View the map & statements

You can view an updated working copy of the map on a computer (but not the statements) at Howden House First Point reception. If you are likely to want to see the statements or discuss anything with us then please contact us and if necessary make an appointment to see a PROW officer.

Closing & diverting public paths

It is illegal to close or divert a public path without the necessary legal consents being obtained in advance. It is possible for contractors and landowners to temporarily divert paths for between one day and 6 months to allow for site works to be carried out safely. However, we would always encourage an applicant to try and keep the path open if possible.

It is also possible to temporarily close paths for the same reason, if there is nowhere suitable to divert the path to. Again, it is preferable for the path to be kept open if at all possible, not least because you may have problems securing the site if you try to exclude the public completely.

It is also possible to permanently divert paths to allow building and certain other developments to take place, to improve the path network for users and to assist in efficient management of the land in question, provided that you have somewhere suitable to divert the path to. It is also possible to permanently close paths in very limited circumstances, although this is very rare.

Temporary diversions and closures cost the applicant between £900 and £2,000 and permanent diversions are likely to cost the applicant around £4,900 plus VAT.

Please contact:

Claimed paths

Where a path has been used for at least 20 years, without interuption and where that use has not been subject to implications that indicate the landowner has no intention to accept the path as public, then public rights probably exist, even if the path is not shown on the DM.

However, if during that time a gate has been locked from time to time, or a landowner has asked people to turn back, or 'private' or 'no trespassing' notices have gone up from time to time then public rights probably do not exist.

If you believe a path you have used should be recorded on the DM then please download and complete the form at the bottom of this pate. A minimum of 15 completed forms including at least 10 with at least 20 years' use each is normally required for us to proceed with the matter.

It is also necessary for those who complete the forms to sign them individually and be prepared to attend a public enquiry to give evidence as to their use of the path should objections be raised. Where there is an insufficient number of claim returns or, where only a few individuals are prepared to attend an inquiry, then we reserve the right not to proceed with the matter.

If enough evidence is provided to the Council then the necessary procedure will be put in place be the Council to arrange for a Definitive Map Modification Order to be made to legally prove that public rights exist. If successful then the path in question will be added to the DM. It should be noted that the whole process can take a long time and even a simple claim can take over to a year to complete once the process has started.

Local Access Forum

Local Access Forums (LAFs) have a statutory duty to advise local authorities and government bodies on the improvement of public access to land in their areas.

The Sheffield LAF was formed in 2003 and has 14 members, who have been appointed for a maximum of 3 years each. The members represent the interests of landowners, land managers, conservation groups and users of public paths and open spaces. 

LAF meetings are generally held quarterly and are open to the public (although the public will generally not be given an opportunity to speak).

The meetings are currently held at the JG Graves Woodland Discovery Centre, Ecclesall Woods, Sheffield. Disabled access and facilities are available.

Countryside & Rights of Way Act

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) created a statutory right of access on foot to Access land. In England, the public now has a right to roam across 940,000 hectares of mountain, moor, heath and down, which represents around 7% of the country, without keeping to established paths.

The Peak District National Park Authority is responsible for the Access Land within its area and we are responsible for the rest of the Access Lane within the City.

The Act has also led to the creation of the Local Access Forum and the production of the Rights Of Way Improvement Plan.

Rights of Way Improvement Plan

Under the Countryside and Rights Of Way Act 2000, every local highway authority must prepare a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) that must show:

  • the extent to which local Rights of Way meet the present and likely needs of the public
  • the opportunities provided by local Rights of Way for exercise and other forms of open-air recreation and the enjoyment of the authority’s area
  • the accessibility of local Rights of Way to blind or partially sighted persons and others with mobility problems

Our ROWIP was published in November 2007 and is a 10 year plan covering the period 2007-2017. An updated ROWIP covering the period 2017-2027 is in preparation at the present time.

Public Rights Of Way

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