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Making Changes to the Definitive Map

Whilst a significant number of paths are recorded on the Definitive Map (the legal record) some may have been omitted for a variety of reasons. A definitive map modification order (DMMO) made under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the legal mechanism to amend the definitive map upon the discovery of evidence that a correction needs to be made.

This can be in the form of historic records and/or evidence of the route being used regularly for a number of years. The information here is concerned with the latter – user evidence. Click here for information dealing with claiming historic paths.

How can I get involved?

If you have been challenged by a landowner or occupier when using a path that you have used for a number of years then let us know via the incident report form; and talk to your local surveying authority to clarify if the path is shown on the definitive map or on the local register of DMMO applications (a list of paths registered to be claimed). If it is not, then British Canoeing may be able to claim it as a public right of way under section 31 of the Highways Act 1980 if the route has been used as follows:

  1. A period of at least 20 years' uninterrupted use by the public from the date it was brought into question.
  2. Use must be 'as of right', which means without secrecy, force, or the express permission of the landowner
  3. Use must be by the public at large, not just certain tenants or employees of an estate
  4. The route being claimed must link at one end to a public highway, i.e. a public footpath, public bridleway, restricted byway, a byway open to all traffic or a road, where it is a cul de sac path it should terminate at a point of interest e.g. a river or lakeside.

Once you are confident the above criteria has been met the next step is to gather user evidence, please use this one, if you would like British Canoeing to apply on your behalf. If you are comfortable making an application direct to your surveying authority, then please complete their user evidence forms, usually available on their website.

Top tips for completing evidence forms:

  • Appoint a co-ordinator to lead on gathering the evidence and following up leads.
  • Complete the forms carefully and honestly, if the DMMO is made and opposed, you may be required to attend a public inquiry.
  • Focus on users with more than twenty years use dating back from when the right to use the way was brought into question.
  • Ensure an accompanying plan is completing marking clearly the line of the route used – there may be more than one route used and it may have changed over time, record it carefully.
  • Collate at least a dozen spanning the 20 year period from when use of the path was brought into question.

You will also need to identify all the owners and occupiers of all land to which the application relates, British Canoeing can help you with this.

If you are completing the application in your own name then you will need to follow the next steps, otherwise British Canoeing can make the application:

  • Using your local surveying authority’s ‘service of notice form’ complete the form and send to all occupiers and owners affected by the application
  • Using your local surveying authority’s ‘formal application form’ complete and send in to your application to the surveying authority, along with your local authority’s certificate confirming you have notified all affected landowners and occupiers

The authority will evaluate the evidence and where sufficient evidence exists they have a legal duty to make an order.

Occasionally under Common Law it can be shown that a landowner has in effect given the public a right of way, however the majority of claims are made based on section 31 of the Highways Act 1980.

British Canoeing can support you with your application and provide additional guidance. Please email us at [email protected]

Resources and further information around the process:

The Ramblers

Open Spaces Society

The British Horse Society