The rights of way application process should be streamlined and made fairer for landowners, the NFU said in its response to a new government consultation.
A key proposal the NFU would like to see implemented is the 2026 cut-off date for new applications for historic rights of way, part of a proposed package of improvements which will bring to an end the uncertainty for landowners. Currently, applications can take years to process and it is hoped that the proposals will significantly reduce this timescale.
In addition, the NFU believes the local authority, not the applicant, should approach the landowner or occupier only after the application has passed a new, basic evidence test.Â This will ensure that farmers have the opportunity to discuss the applications and are engaged only after weak applications have been screened out.
NFU countryside adviser Claire Robinson said: â€œThe Government should take every opportunity to make improvements to rights of way policy and legislation, in particular, to address areas where the current rights of way network is demonstrably out of date. Currently, it is difficult and costly to implement changes to the network.
â€œThere is a clear need to simplify the legislation and implementation in this area to reduce the timescales involved in processing applications, for path diversions or existing and historic routes.Â This will reduce costs to all those involved and uncertainty for businesses affected by applications. It cannot be acceptable to Government or society that, for example, an application for a historic right of way made in 1993 is still to be determined this year.â€