Public Rights of Way Good Practice Guide 

Public rights of way (PROW)

Rights of way are minor public highways that exist for the benefit of the community at large, in much the same way as the public road network does. They are the most widely recognised opportunity for the public to enjoy the English countryside.

There are the following public rights of way in England:

  • Footpaths – over which the right of way is on foot only ;
  • Bridleways – for pedestrians, horse riders and bicyclists (who must give way to people on foot or on horseback) ;
  • Restricted byways – carriageways over which the right of way is for all types of traffic except mechanically propelled vehicles ;
  • Byways open to all traffic (BOATs) - carriageways over which the right of way is on foot, on horseback and for all vehicular traffic (including mechanically propelled vehicles, but which are used mainly for the purposes for which footpaths and bridleways are used (i.e. by walkers and horse riders) .

The existing rights of way network reflects historic patterns of travel - to work, school, church and family.


Rights of way improvement plans

The plan should explain how improvements to your PROW network will offer better provision for:

  • Walkers ;
  • Cyclists ;
  • Horse riders ;
  • People with mobility problems .

In preparing the improvement plans, authorities are to develop proposals to improve and manage their networks to meet the needs of the public, looking at ways in which they can benefit health, transport, recreation, tourism and other local economic needs. The purpose of the plans is to encourage local authorities to take a strategic view of their rights of way network with the aim of reflecting modern patterns of demand and land use and providing better for the needs of users - particularly those that do not benefit from the right of open access (horse riders, cyclist etc.) and those with mobility problems.

While carrying out maintenance or improvements, authorities must have regard for the conservation of the environment – biodiversity and historical monuments.