Public access and your Farm

With significantly more people going out and enjoying the countryside and its wildlife, it is becoming more important to consider how and where the public have access, and the perception that they have towards your farm.  Whether it is from a footpath, road or supermarket, we should all remember that the public is our customer, if not always directly.

As farmers you get to see beautiful parts of the countryside everyday, the public also get to share this enjoyment through the safety of footpaths. It is important that public footpath boundaries are respected, and there is legislation in place to help you keep public access to your farm where it should be i.e. the existing rights of ways. 

Section 31(6) of The Highways Act 1980 allows the landlord to stop or limit any new and prevent the re-instating of unused historic, public rights of way through your land, by the use of a CA16 form.  The process of applying for a S31 notice involves:

  • Completing the CA16 form
  • Compiling a map to show the parcel of land with the boundary marked on
  • Paying a fee which is set by the local authority, (circa £200 to £1500)

Additional details about the application:

  • It should be submitted to the top-tier local authority for the parcel of land
  • It lasts for 20 years
  • It can be amended within the 20 years if your circumstances change
  • Be aware that applications made before October 2013 were only valid for 10 years

With the ever changing policies and the impact of Brexit, the countryside is being looked at as a public good and a resource for everyone to enjoy. This interaction with the public through their use of footpaths, offers a unique opportunity to influence their views of the agricultural industry.  Therefore, it is important that we all work to help improve the perceptions of farming. 

These are a few points to consider;

  • Footpaths – ensure they are obvious and marked with clear signage. Potentially putting in gates to prevent wandering into unwanted areas.
  • Stewardship options choice and location – stewardship areas are far too often used as extensions of footpaths, consider the siting and type of option used carefully, so the public can enjoy viewing the wildlife benefits, without causing its disturbance.
  • Demonstrating your environmental value, are the public aware of what you’re doing for the environment? Consider information boards/signs to improve public education around the industry actions (e.g. explain what stewardship plots are aiming to achieve)
  • If there is public access next to or through your yard, make sure it is clean and tidy, not only for safety reasons but also the view and perception of farming.  Would you be happy with a member of the public seeing your yard?
  • Public access is likely to be a more important aspect of future Environmental Land Management (ELM) Schemes, with there potentially being payments for enabling it. How could you build this into your farm?

For more information on a Section 31 application can be found on the government website: