The history of our Byways goes back many thousands of years to when man first made tracks to connect farms and villages to the developing market towns. Many of the original features can still be seen. Layered trees woven together, earth banks and ditches (used to contain livestock being driven to market) still exist along some of these tracks.
The number of places where you can use a motor vehicle ‘off road’ in the Countryside is limited by the law. Unless you have the landowners permission you are restricted to one type of Public Right of Way. These are known as Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) or Unclassified County Roads (UCRs).
Note: The NERC Act re-classified Roads Used as Public Paths (RUPPs) to Restricted Byways (RBs) and made it illegal for Mechanically Propelled Vehicles to use RBs. There are some exceptions, please see the NERC act section 67.
You may know these as ‘Green Lanes’ but not all green lanes are Byways. These routes can be located with an Ordnance Survey map, we recommend the OS Landranger 1:50,000 series. The Definitive Map of Rights of Way can be examined at the borough/district councils or at the Rights of Way Section at County Hall. Do not assume that Ordnance Survey maps give correct information on rights of way. Many maps contain out of date information.
Byways are sometimes waymarked with red arrows. You must not use either Public Bridleways (blue arrows) or Public Footpaths (yellow arrows).
Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO’s) are used to close a Byway for repairs or alterations or to permanently prohibit vehicular traffic. You must follow the instructions displayed on the notices at the end of the affected section.
Byways are public highways and are subject to the same laws as any other highway. To remain within the law you or your vehicle must have the following:
A BOAT can be used by any road legal vehicle.
A TRO can be applied to a BOAT without changing the status, it prohibits vehicles, either cars and motorbikes or just cars. It is shown on the maps as a BOAT but will have signs at each end of the BOAT showing that it has a TRO. The sign is round with a red edge, and has a picture of either a motorcycle and car or just a car.
Proposed TRO’s do not legally have to go to Public Enquiry when there are objections. If there is an overwhelming amount of objections it may go to a Public Enquiry, but even then it is up to the discretion of the council. This is why councils tend to put TRO’s on BOATs instead of trying to downgrade them.
If there are objections to a change in status of a RoW, i.e. proposed downgrading of a BOAT, a Public Enquiry must be held. A Public Enquiry is run by a (supposedly) Independent Inspector, who is presented with evidence from both parties as to why a BOAT should/should not be downgraded. He will then go away and examine all of the evidence and make a decision.
A Public Enquiry can be held for any changes in the status of a RoW, including BOATs, Bridleways and Footpaths.