The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 placed a duty on every county council in England and Wales to draw up and publish a Definitive Map and Statement (DMS) for their area.
The Definitive Map records the position and status of public rights of way, while the Definitive Statement is a written statement describing each public right of way shown on the Definitive Map. Together they form a legal document and are maintained by each respective Council. The Definitive Map and Statement is conclusive evidence for the paths it shows, but there may be additional higher rights, or other paths with public rights, which are not shown.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 requires the Definitive Map and Statement to be continually reviewed and the Councils are responsible for correcting any errors or omissions by means of Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMO). Any member of the public can apply for a DMMO to be made where they have sufficient evidence that:
- A path has not been shown on the DMS that should have been
- A path has been shown on the DMS which should not have been
- A path has been shown on the DMS but with the wrong status or alignment
- Other details about a path shown on the DMS are incorrect or missing
Applications are made following a procedure set out in Schedule 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and, whilst there is no cost to making an application, they can be very complex and take a long time to resolve.
If you have more questions on this subject, please see this page in our Frequently Asked Questions section.
The Natural England booklet, A Guide to Definitive Maps and Changes to Public Rights of Way gives further useful information in this area.