Those familiar with S31.6 of the Highways Act 1980 will know that it provides a means by which landowners can protect themselves against informal public use of a route leading to the creation of a new public right of way. In 2013 Regulations very usefully provided a prescribed process by which landowners could be confident that the plans, statements and declarations they deposited with their local highway authority provided the appropriate protection for them. But the downside was a requirement for the local authority to post site notices to bring the deposits to the attention of the public, at a least one obvious place of entry to the land. This had the effect of bringing landowners’ lack of intention to dedicate a route to the attention of users, creating the risk of a claim being made. Costs also become an important consideration for landowners, with local authorities charging a ‘cost per notice’ fee, which could run into £,000s.
In consequence many landowners decided not to proceed with deposits, preferring to rely on their own notices or policing the land more carefully. However, following the release of a further set of Regulations, the concern for landowners of ‘showing their hand’ by publishing public notices, will be reduced in future.
The Commons (Registration of Town or Village Greens) and Dedicated Highways (Landowner Statements and Declarations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 removes the requirement for site notices for S31.6 statements and declarations. It comes into force on 1 December 2016. The removal of the requirement should also lead to a lower fee being charged for deposits by local authorities.
Note: There is no change for statements made under S15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006. Site notices are still required for these deposits, which protect against a period of public recreational use of an area of land leading to the creation of a Town or Village Green.