Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, there is a general right of access to ‘access land’. Access land is land that is specifically accessible to the public under an enactment or land which is not ‘excepted land’.

The main categories of excepted land are:

  • land used for a park, aerodrome or golf course;
  • land used as a park or garden;
  • land within 20 metres of a dwelling or a permanent building used for housing livestock;
  • land used for livestock or for training racehorses;
  • land covered by pens for the temporary detention of livestock; and
  • land covered by buildings or the curtilage of such land.

The concept of curtilage is one which can prove difficult. It can be defined as the enclosed land around a house or other building and this is normally taken to include the enclosed area (e.g. by a fence) which is appropriate for the building.

The main problem with the legislation is that the maps showing access land (which are being developed and posted on the website of the Countryside Agency) will not identify excepted land, so the exception to the right of access by the public must be enforced by the landowner.