The thought of new rights of way coming into existence through long use can be quite worrying for any landowner. The thought that Mrs Miggins, who you have turned a blind eye to cutting through the corner of a field could register the route as a Public Right of Way is not something that you should have to worry about, but it could happen.
To prevent this as a landowner you would need to show that you have taken a level of appropriate action to make it clear that no such Public Right exists, such as locking gates or challenging people using the route. Alternatively, you can deposit a landowner statement and map under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980.
A deposition under this Act allows landowners to make clear the Public Rights of Way that exist across their holdings (if any at all) which is then shown online on the appropriate Authorities website. Within 20 years of the deposition it must be followed up with a declaration confirming that no new Rights of Way have been dedicated since the deposition of the Statement and associated map. Any Public Use of the land during this period cannot then be counted toward the establishment of a Right of Way.
The submission of a Statement and Plan now will not counter an application for a new Public Right of Way that can be shown to have had 20 years uninterrupted use prior to the submission, but it will prevent any new Rights being claimed going forward.
If the submission of a S31(6) Notice is something that you would like to explore further, please do get in touch through the details on the Contact Page of this website.