Footpaths and Public Rights of Way - What are they

Long standing Friends (of Par Beach members) will be aware of the campaign by the Parish Council to formalise the status of certain long used pedestrian routes through the holiday park and around the beach. At our Mingle evening on 24th Feb 2010 we displayed a map and asked for opinions on various route options so that the FoPB committee could establish the position of the organisation. It was clear that there was a certain amount of confusion as to the terms used to describe the situation and also what was and wasn't possible.

Public Footpath
This term refers to a type of public highway, in fact a Public Right of Way (PROW) along which everyone has a legal and permanent right to pass and re-pass on foot. You can take your dog or a push chair with you but are not allowed to ride horses or bicycles or drive any type of motor vehicle (unless given the landowners permission).

A PROW cannot be blocked, obstructed or diverted by the landowner and it is illegal to prevent people from using them. It is not possible to close a PROW even temporarily without an official order from the highway authority (usually that would be here, Cornwall Council).

Other PROWs include Public Bridleways (horses and bicycles allowed) or Byways Open to All Traffic including motor vehicles (BOATs). The term "green lane" means nothing legally.

Nationally there is a convention of way-marking public footpaths with yellow arrows, public bridleways with blue and byways open to all (BOATS) with red. On ordnance survey maps they are shown with different symbols.

Permissive Paths
These are routes over which a landowner has allowed liberal public access at various times by default or design. There are no legal rights attached to these under the Highways Act, although many landowners enter voluntary agreements stating conditions to prevent the routes later becoming PROWs.

Some special circumstances were created as Access Land through the C.R.O.W. Act 2000 that involves land over 600m high, moor, heath, downs and registered commons.

A huge proportion of our PROW are wonderfully ancient or historic. They can derive from roman roads, mediaeval drovers routes or point to the locations of long lost fords, mills or field boundaries.

1949 saw the compulsory introduction of the Definitive Map and Definitive Statement documents. These were compiled by County Councils as a result of registration of routes claimed as such, mainly by Parish Councils. In simple terms, the Map and Statement were intended to become an indisputable record of PROW.

In practice few authorities fully or sensibly completed the task, falling foul of the limits and leaving disputes unresolved to this day. There are also mad anomalies, especially at Parish and County boundaries, where paths may magically stop dead and bridleways turn in to footpaths.

Sadly for the explosion in countryside activities in recent years, the owners of large country estates were often significant figures on parish councils. Some were not minded to allow claims to be made across their land. If you take a good look at a range of modern Landranger maps, it is often easy to spot the difference between large estates and for example, a mining area. The former are often devoid of routes while the latter are often crisscrossed.

Par Beach
Whatever the situation was before WW2, it is clear that the land surface has substantially altered and this includes pre-existing access routes.

Perhaps because the beach was in public ownership or for other long forgotten reasons, routes south of the haul road did not find their way on to the Definitive Map. Therefore, at the time of publication (2010), there are currently no legally defined PROWs on Par Beach south of the haul road.

Due to a fear that there was to be a prevention of public access through the previous campsite part of the holiday park, the Parish Council were able to attract over 700 letters of evidence and support for a claim that certain routes should be entered on to the Definitive Map.

It is not a fact that permissive routes automatically become PROW after a certain number of years of use. However, evidence of long use is crucial to any campaign for route registration.

Friends of Par Beach
The position of the FoPB committee is that a range of routes allowing free access 1) to and from Polmear from Par Green and 2) to and from the dunes, should become Public Rights of Way (PROWs). We are also keen to discuss the creation of a new route across to Par Harbour over which we believe the south west coast path should run.

We believe that as far as it is practical, these routes should be unobstructed and level enough for all ability use, and that they should form circular routes of various lengths thereby attractive to people of all ages and abilities.

We have until 2026 to claim for Historical Public Rights of Way under the CROW Act. The Countryside Agency set up a national scheme called Discovering Lost Ways. We need a Definitive Map modification order to be made to ensure routes to the beach are PROW.

We have not at the time of writing (March 2010) taken up a position on horse riding or bicycles, but address our concerns initially to the normal use of a public footpath.

The map showing the routes we support as PROW is shown below;


Written for FoPB by Jan Phillips.

Update (2018)
A recent check on County Councils Definative Map shows that since the above article was written a number of PROWs have been added that replicate most, but not all, the routes as shown on the map above. The relevant Parish/path no./link no.'s are: 425/12/2, 425/13/1, 425/18/1, 425/18/2, 425/19/1, 425/20/1, 425/21/1, 425/21/2, 425/22/1.

The County Councils website has a Public Rights of Way Interactive Map which will show you the relevant paths marked in magenta.

Cornwall Council Park Leisure Par Sands Friends of Par Beach are supported by
PL24 Community Association, Tesco,
Par Sands Coastal Holiday Park,
Cornwall Council Community Grant
Tesco PL24 Community Association