2026 Footpath Clarification
This is an update from a post a couple of weeks ago, where I was concerned to hear about a law that will come into force in 2026, extinguishing any footpaths in Britain (even medieval ones) that haven’t been officially recorded.
RTB was very concerned about this and wrote to the council asking what the situation was as far as Greenwich’s footpaths are concerned. They may not be the most picturesque in Britain, but some of them are jolly useful.
He got a couple of smug replies from Some Bloke, saying that as Greenwich is an inner city borough, it didn’t have to provideone of the definitive maps that the law will use to base closures.
RTB asked where that left us. He got a non-committal reply.
So I wrote to the Ramblers Association – and this is their reply, from Janet Davis, Rights of Way Policy Co-Ordinator:
“The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 was the legislation which required the drawing up of the original definitive maps. At that time the London County Council (LCC), the county boroughs and areas which county councils considered to be ‘fully developed’ areas were exempt from the requirement to produce definitive maps. These councils could, by resolution, decide to do so, although not surprisingly none of them did.
When the LCC was abolished in 1965, the GLC and 32 London boroughs were created. However, definitive map legislation remained optional in the 12 inner London boroughs which were roughly the equivalent of the old LCC.
In 1981, the requirement to produce definitive maps became compulsory everywhere except the inner London boroughs (of which Greenwich is one). That remains the situation to this day, and although it is still open to those boroughs to resolve to opt in to the legislation none of them has.
The good news is that the cut-off date provisions recognise this and footpaths and bridleways, any part of which are in an area which immediately before 1 April 1965, formed part of the administrative county of London (i.e. the old LCC) are exempt – they won’t be extinguished on 1 January 2026.
The Ramblers has always argued that the inner London boroughs should not have been exempt from the requirement to prepare a map because having a definitive map of rights of way is very good protection for such routes. The depiction of a right of way on a definitive map is conclusive evidence (i.e. sufficient to satisfy a court) of the existence of a route and that can be invaluable in protecting a route from development or other obstruction. It is difficult to see why the City of Birmingham should have to produce a map when the inner London boroughs do not have to do so.
However, while the threat of the 2026 cut-off date remains in place, the situation in which the inner London boroughs find themselves is actually, in a way, advantageous. Once the Government has made a decision on what to do about the cut-off date, and the recording of rights of way in urban areas in general (although mapping is compulsory everywhere except inner London many urban authorities have been very slow about it) we will be in a better position to decide if we should re-new our campaign for definitive maps in inner London.”
So. It basically seems that because Greenwich Council (and, actually, all the other London Boroughs) didn’t bother creating a definitive map, we get to keep our paths. For the moment, at least. Phew.
Janet Davis was, however, keen to point out that the cut-off date is still an issue in the rest of the country. If you enjoy walking in the countryside, you may like to sign the petition anyway…