Closing or diverting a public right of way

A public right of way can only be diverted or closed, through a legal process.

There are provisions to temporarily or permanently close a right of way for a number of reasons.

Temporary diversions and closures

An application may be made to temporarily close or divert a public right of way, for safety reasons, or to carry out necessary works.  A definitive right of way may be closed for a maximum period of 6 months. Such closures require a traffic regulation order to be published.

If you require a temporary closure or diversion of a public right of way, please see our information pack.

Permanent diversions and closures

Public rights of way may be closed or diverted for a variety of reasons:

Unnecessary highway

A public right of way may be closed if it can be deemed to be unnecessary and if there is a nearer or more commodious route available to the public. Such closures are processed under section 116 of the Highways Act 1980.

Applications under section 116 are made to the magistrates’ court and are subject to a consultation process.  As such, objections may be made by members of the public or other interested parties such as rights of way user groups or utilities companies.

In every case, Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council will assess each objection and make the final decision as to whether an application will be heard by the magistrates’ court.

To enable development

A landowner may apply to divert or extinguish a public right of way if they have planning permission to develop the land over which the right of way runs.  Such applications are made under section 257 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

As with applications made under the Highways Act 1980, a consultation process is carried out that may result in objections to the proposed order.  However, applications made under the Town and Country Planning Act are not heard by the magistrates’ court.  When a proposed order receives objections, the Secretary of State has the power to decide whether or not to approve the closure or diversion of the right of way.  In many cases, a public inquiry will be held to decide whether or not the order will be approved.  As such, applying for a closure or diversion under the Town and Country Planning Act can be a lengthy process and is not always successful.

In the interest of the landowner or public

Under section 118 of the Highways Act 1980, landowners may apply to divert a public right of way on their land if they can demonstrate that it is beneficial to move the path and that the alternative route will not be less convenient or less enjoyable to the public. 

Once an application has been made, the council will review the proposal and assess the impact that the diversion will have.  If the council is happy with the proposed diversion, a legal order will be made and members of the public will be given the opportunity to object.  If no objections are received, the public right of way will be officially diverted once the new route is in a suitable condition.

The cost of the process is paid usually paid for by the applicant.

For further information please see our guidance notes and application pack.

If the path is not needed for public use

Applications to extinguish public rights of way may also be made under section 118 of the Highways Act 1980 on the grounds that it is no longer need for public use.  The process for an extinguishment is similar to that of a diversion. 

For further information please see our guidance notes and application pack.

For crime and anti-social behaviour

It is not possible to close a right of way because of misuse or antisocial behaviour.

If you are interested in closing or diverting a public right of way, please refer to our information pack or contact us on 01254 273 501 or PROW@Capita.co.uk.

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