Public Rights of Way

How Parish/Town Councils Can Help


Somerset County Council’s Rights of Way Service has undergone many changes over the last year with Mendip and South Somerset District Councils returning the agency agreements and many changes to the personnel. To view a map and the service structure, please click on the documents on the right hand side of this page

Somerset County Council (SCC), as the Highway Authority, has responsibility for the surface of the Rights of Way in the county.  With the budget available to them, they aim to open and maintain as much of the network as possible.  In order to complement this work they benefit from the actions of landowners, user groups, private individuals and volunteers. 

Nearly 90% of parishes have a Parish Path Liaison Officer (PPLO); the role requires that the person walks or rides the local paths, reports any problems and carries out minor clearance of vegetation around stiles, gates and signs.  In some cases the role is shared by a number of volunteers and in some parishes volunteers have adopted all the paths.

Parish and Town Councils have their own powers under the Highways Act 1980 to carry out work either by aiding volunteers or by employing contractors. SCC requests that contact is made with the SCC Area Warden by the PPLO before works commence to ensure that the landowners have been consulted and that the work is done in the correct location. The Parish or Town Council will need to provide adequate insurance cover for these volunteers and the materials; SCC will make a contribution towards the material costs.

Other parishes choose to be more proactive and employ a Parish Lengthsman (either once a week or once a month) to perform a range of practical work across the area including some Rights of Way tasks.

The aim of this article, which was provided by SCC, is to encourage each Parish or Town Council to discuss how the Rights of Way are currently looked after and investigate if local people want to become more involved. SCC does not wish the role of PPLO to be too onerous and where possible it can be shared between interested people. Andy Stevenson, SCC’s Volunteer Co-ordinator for Rights of Way, is happy to discuss this in more depth at the next round of panel meetings or respond to specific questions from Parish or Town Councils.

Please contact the Volunteer and Trails Officer, Rights of Way, Somerset County Council ROWvolunteers@somerset.gov.uk.

For general Rights of Way information refer to www.somerset.gov.uk/rightsofway