Date posted: 24 March 2017
Third party use of your land for a continuous period of 20 years could lead to rights being unintentionally acquired. Additional rights over land can have adverse implications on land and property management, future land use and land and asset value. There are various means by which you can prevent and reduce the risk of such rights being acquired.
Prescriptive Rights of Way – safeguard your interests
Acquisition of rights through long-use or enjoyment of land can occur where that use or enjoyment is “as of right”, being without force, without secrecy and without permission. Preventative measures to new rights being established can include physical action such as fencing routes, securing access points and erecting signage. In addition to any practical measures that can be employed, the provisions under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 (as amended) should also be adopted.
Section 31(6) of the Highways Act provides for landowners to deposit a statement, map and formal declaration to the Council, confirming the extent of their land and the rights of way they admit over their land. The declaration, which lasts for 20 years, confirms that the landowner has no intention of dedicating additional public rights of way on their land and assists in making it clear to the public that the public have no additional rights over the land. In the absence of proof of a contrary intention, a declaration should be sufficient to safeguard against prescriptive rights being acquired.
Similarly, Section 15A of the Commons Act 2006 (as amended) prescribes a mechanism by which a landowner can deposit a statement and map to protect against the registration of their land as a town or village green. A Section 15A statement can bring to an end any period of recreational use “as of right” over the land and is a pertinent consideration for land with future development potential.
Scenarios where rights are acquired through long use or enjoyment are not unusual and to avoid any surprises, landowners should ensure that any existing third-party rights over their land are regularised. For any queries or further information relating to third party use of your land, please do not hesitate to contact us.