Defra announcement on Definitive Map 2026 ‘cut-off date’ for historic paths

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 introduced a provision for a cut-off date of 1 January 2026 for the recording of historic rights of way.

This was seen as an opportunity to bring more certainty for the public and landowners alike as to what and where the recorded Public Rights of Way are.

The cut-off date would have the effect of extinguishing certain routes not recorded on the Definitive Map by the deadline. The intention of the legislation is to prevent any claim being successfully made for the addition of a way to the Definitive Map after 1 January 2026 if the claim is solely based on documentary evidence that the rights existed before 1949.

The provision for the 2026 cut-off date has not yet been implemented. In 2008 Natural England initiated a review of the legislation and associated process, and The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that it would defer a decision on whether to implement the ‘cut-off’ provisions until that review was complete.

Subsequently, a package of measures was drawn up to simplify, speed up and reduce costs and administrative burdens associated with rights of way procedures.  These were included within the Deregulation Act 2015.

The parts of the Act concerning Public Rights of Way are sections 20 to 26:

20. recording rights of way: additional protection
21. unrecorded rights of way: protection from extinguishment
22. conversion of public rights of way to private rights of way
23. applications by owners etc. for public path orders
24. extension of powers to authorise erection of gates at owner’s request
25. applications for certain orders under Highways Act 1980: cost recovery
26. public rights of way: procedure

Within those sections are a multitude of changes in procedure and process which intend to act as a package of legislative reforms.

The actual processes through which the content of the Act will be delivered will be set out in regulations.  These regulations are also likely to specify certain exceptions to extinguishment at the cut-off date to prevent some routes being lost unintentionally.

Defra has recently announced its intention to repeal the cut-off date from the legislation. Defra is currently drafting the regulations and we do not have the details of what they will contain.  There is no timetable available for when these regulations will be published. Therefore, there is currently no formal decision on the implementation, or otherwise, of the 2026 cut-off date, the requirements of the Deregulation Act and the effect they may have on the cut-off date provisions. We will update the information on this page once further details are published.

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