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Your Borough Of Poole

Public rights of way

What is a public right of way?

A public right of way is a way over which the public have a right to pass and re-pass. All known public rights of way are recorded in the definitive map and statement, which is the main legal record held by the Local Authority. 

Public rights of way can be found throughout the Poole-Bournemouth conurbation. All of these paths are split into the following four categories:

  • footpath – pedestrians only (including pushchairs, wheelchairs/mobility scooters)

  • bridleway – pedestrian (including pushchairs, wheelchairs/mobility scooters), equestrian and cyclist traffic only. Usually not a bound surface

  • restricted byway – pedestrian (including pushchairs, wheelchairs/mobility scooters), equestrian, cyclist and horse and carriage traffic only

  • byway (open to all traffic) – all of the above and mechanically propelled vehicles.

Our responsibility

To assert and protect the public’s enjoyment of all their highways and to:

  • prevent unlawful encroachment

  • prevent any unlawful obstruction

  • prevent stopping up paths against the public interest

  • keep the definitive map and statement under continuous review.

Your responsibility

  • lack of use has no effect on the legal existence of a right of way

  • you must leave land to which you have no legal right of access if asked to do so by the owner or his representative

  • a footpath should be wide enough for two walkers to pass in comfort. A bridleway should allow two horses to pass each other comfortably

  • cyclists and horse riders must not use footpaths

  • cyclists must give way to riders and walkers on bridleways
  • when walking or riding in groups, please travel in single file where necessary and do not spread out beyond the width of the path.

Users may:

  • pass and re-pass on a public right of way

  • stop to look at the view, take a photograph, sit down to rest and so on

  • take a pram, pushchair, wheelchair, but expect to encounter stiles on footpaths

  • take a dog, but always under close control

  • may remove an illegal obstacle sufficiently to get past.

Users may not:
  • roam over land at will, deviating from the line of the right of way unless it is to pass an obstruction

  • use a vehicle on a byway if it is not registered, taxed and insured, or to drive recklessly, carelessly or without due consideration of others

  •  use a right of way for any purpose other than as a right of passage

  •  cause any unnecessary damage when removing an illegal obstruction.

Rights of Way Improvement Plan

Borough of Poole and Bournemouth Borough Council adopted the Poole and Bournemouth Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) 2017 to 2026 in November 2017.

For a hard copy of the improvement plan, please contact the rights of way team on rightsofway@poole.gov.uk.

The definitive map

The definitive map records the location and class of all recorded public rights of way. A definitive statement goes with the map and gives the start and end points and sometimes description of the route.

Poole has a large excluded (unmapped area) that covers approximately two thirds of the Borough, however there is now a project underway to survey and record this area.

Definitive map duties

In 1997 Borough of Poole achieved Unitary Status which includes being the Surveying Authority for the Borough.

Duties are to:

  • maintain the definitive map and statement
  • investigate applications to modify the map and statement on user or document evidence
  • continuously review the map by Modification Orders
  • make the public aware of their right to apply to modify the map.

Changes to the map

We have powers to make creation, extinguishment or diversion orders of rights of way known as Public Path Orders.

There is a deadline that by 2026, it will no longer be possible to modify the map with claims entirely based on Pre-1949 derived historic evidence.

Claims based on use (20 years use without force, secrecy or permission) will continue to be accepted.

Please contact us by email or telephone (01202 262017) if you think you have evidence to record a public right of way, or if you have evidence to either upgrade or downgrade a path (e.g. from a footpath to a bridleway if you found historic evidence suggesting there was horse riding).

Register of applications for Modification Orders 




Cardigan Road – Cromer Road


To be included in area survey

Further information can be obtained from:

DEFRA – website for circular 1/09 http://www.defra.gov.uk/publications/2011/06/15/pb13553-row-circular-109/

More general Rights of Way information


Rights of way and accessing land on GOV.UK

Getting About

Local Government Ombudsman


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