Problematic rights of way

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This page relates to "Public Rights of Way" in the United Kingdom only. Public rights of way are paths that have been officially designated by the local authority ("surveying authority") as a way on which the public have a legally protected right to access. The surveying authorities are those shown in this list of UK councils. They are required to keep a record of public rights of way in two documents; the Definitive Map and Definitive Statement.

If you come across a public right of way that:

  • is temporarily impassable;
  • is permanently impassable;
  • has or may have been unofficially moved; or
  • is otherwise not accurately recorded

you should notify the relevant surveying authority. To help other mappers, please also send an email to the "talk-gb" mailing list.

Tagging advice

Temporarily impassable ways

For temporary obstructions, such as the right of way being overgrown (including by farmers crops) or access restricted by a fallen tree or locked gate, it is advised that you apply the following tags to the way.

  • highway=* ("footway", "path", "cycleway", "track", etc - as appropriate)
  • designation=* (the type of the right of way)
  • barrier=* (an appropriate barrier value - e.g. overgrown}}
  • FIXME=resurvey (to indicate that the way needs resurveying)
  • prow_ref=* (surveying authority reference - if known)

Permanently impassable ways

For permanent obstructions, such as the right of way being blocked by a building structure, it it advised that you tag the way using the same tags as above, but omitting any highway=* tag.

If it is clear that path users have naturally diverted to a alternative route then you may wish to tag this as a "suspected right of way", by following the guidelines in the section #Unoffically moved ways, below. When reporting the issue to the surveying authority, you should inform them of this alternate route.

Unofficially moved ways

If you believe a right of way may have moved, but this has not been recorded by the surveying authority, then it is suggested the following tags are applied to the original route.

The new route should be tagged with the following.

  • highway=* ("footway", "path", "cycleway", "track", etc - as appropriate)
  • suspected:designation=* (the type of the right of way)
  • FIXME=resurvey (to indicate that the way needs resurveying)

Officially moved, or closed ways

If a right of way has been officially moved or closed ("stopped up"), by way of a "Modification Order" being published by the surveying authority, it may help other mappers if the original route is kept in OpenStreetMap. The way should not include any tags appropriate to its current condition, in addition to the following tag.