Public rights of way

Find out more about different public rights of way, who's responsible for them and report any issues

Public rights of wayA public right of way is a route over which the public have a right to pass, whether or not the land it crosses is privately-owned.

Public rights of way are signposted at each end and may also be marked along the route. Routes can vary in length from a few metres to routes which form part of Hillingdon's walks and trails.

How to recognise a public right of way

Public footpath sign

Public footpath - For walkers only and signed with a yellow arrow. You're allowed to take a pram or wheelchair along a public footpath but many rural routes may not be suitable for that purpose.


 Public bridleway sign

Bridleway - Right of way on foot, horseback and pedal cycle, signed with a blue arrow. Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders.


 Public byway sign

Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) - Right of way on foot, horseback, pedal cycle and motorised vehicles, signed with a red arrow. Due to their nature, they're usually used as a bridleway or footpath.


Who's responsible for public rights of way?

Responsibility and management of the rights of way network lies with Hillingdon Council as the highway authority. However, landowners and rights of way users also have responsibilities to ensure the network remains accessible.

Note: Private rights of way or easements are not the council's responsibility. These issues should be addressed to a solicitor or the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

The council's responsibilities

In the majority of cases, the council controls the surface of the public rights of way. Where it runs along private tracks, the landowner may be liable for the surface.

The council is responsible for:

  • maintenance of the surface of the path, including removal of surface vegetation (except crops)
  • maintenance of bridges over water courses and ditches (if there when the path was recorded)
  • positioning of sign posts where public rights of way leave metalled roads
  • asserting and protecting the public's right to use the public right of way
  • preventing the obstruction of a public right of way
  • ensuring no intimidating or misleading signs deter the public from using a route
  • keeping the Public rights of way Definitive Map and Statement under continuous review.

Rights of Way Improvement Plan

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000 placed a duty on all highway authorities to produce a Rights of Way Improvement Plan [1MB] . The plan provides an opportunity to assess and enhance the borough's rights of way network.

Landowners' responsibilities

  • Remove encroaching vegetation from the sides and above to maintain the line of the route. Bridleways should allow for three meters of head room for the rider.
  • Keep the route clear of obstructions, such as locked gates, fencing or rubbish.
  • Ensure furniture such as gates, stiles or bridges are maintained in good order. The highway authority must be notified of any proposed changes. The landowner is legally responsible for insurance liability claims where the public uses stiles and gates, and must therefore ensure they're well maintained and safe to use.
  • Keep routes clear of crops and ensure field edge routes are not cultivated.
  • Ensure bulls are not kept in a field crossed by a public right of way. They may be kept if they are 10 months old or younger and are both not a recognised dairy breed and are accompanied by cows or heifers.
  • Ensure warning signs are displayed when a bull is present in a field.
  • Waymark routes if the owner feels it's necessary.
  • Ensure no intimidating or misleading signs deter the public from using a route.

It's in the interest of the landowner to assist the highway authority in maintaining the precise route of a path, as this will prevent trespass by the public into other areas of the land.

Users' responsibilities

  • Use gates and stiles to cross hedges and fences.
  • Leave all gates and stiles as found.
  • Keep to routes across farmland or private land.
  • Keep dogs under control.
  • Take litter home with you.
  • Respect surrounding neighbours.

Reporting a problem

If you encounter a problem on any right of way in the borough, please report it below.

Report a public right of way issue

Page last updated: 27 May 2020