Members need to be aware that subtle changes are being made to public highway records. These may impair the evidential value of the records when it comes to claiming equestrian routes and protecting any unrecorded rights from extinguishment in 2026.
Background: Many of the routes that we are currently using (or have used) as bridleways are NOT included on the definitive maps of rights of way. That is because they are already known to local authorities as Unclassified County Roads (UCRs) and Unadopted Roads or Private Streets and are instead recorded on their List of Streets and Local Street Gazetteer.
The Stakeholder Working Group’s (SWG) proposals in their document ‘Stepping Forward’ include Proposal 25. This is intended to protect publicly maintainable roads on the list of streets/local street gazetteer and private streets which carry public rights from the cut-off-date. But:
- Will this be an effective safeguard when the classification of roads has been made so easy for local authorities to alter now?
- Will records of their original classification still be available to the public next week let alone in 2026?
The Changes: Since the arrival of digital mapping the Ordnance Survey (OS) has restructured its service delivery and the way that information on the road network (supplied by local authorities) is now gathered and stored. This information called the ‘National Street Gazetteer’ (NSG) is compiled by the Local Government Association in association with the Ordnance Survey overseen by GeoPlace. The ‘information transport datasets’ are now made available on line by ELGIN through their website roadworks.org, (to check on road classifications in your area, click on the ‘Advanced’ search button, then NSG ‘road status’ & zoom in).
Merging the records: At present in respect of public highways, the OS holds 2 national datasets for England. The List of Streets built up over time and supplied to them by the LAs, and the Definitive Maps of Public Rights of Way (PRoW) which is also supplied by the LAs. The two datasets are in the process of being integrated into one map. By streamlining asset management, the aim is to save money whilst making the record more accurate and easily available.
To facilitate the process the Government has given Local Authorities greater control over the roads classification system. At least one pilot project in Northumberland has already flagged up problems identifying bridleway rights along privately maintained roads.
But the new classification codes for roads have not yet been definitely decided upon and are not easily understandable to members of the public. We are very grateful to the Highways Record Monitoring Group for keeping us up-to-date with the latest developments.