Patchetts Green Bridleways Trust
 PG: OBJECTS: CREATION: Express Dedication By Landowner

Any land owner can dedicate a route for use as a bridleway. So long as the route is used by the public, the route acquires bridleway status.

To provide good evidence of the act of dedication, it is best for the landowner to sign a document that sets out the terms of the new path (for example, specifies whether it is footpath or bridleway, says how wide it is, and specifies if there are to be gates anywhere along it). As this is a matter affecting land, it is best that the document is signed "as a deed". This means that it must say in the text of the document that it is a deed, and the signature of the landowner must be witnessed by someone not related to him.

For a landowner, a significant aspect of dedicating land as a bridleway is that his occupier's liability is greatly reduced from that with a permissive path. Case law [1] has determined that persons using the bridleway are not 'visitors' and so do not fall within the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957. The Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 (which was designed to cover persons other than visitors) expressly excludes highway users from its provisions. There is, therefore, only the liability for positive acts of misfeasance to highway users. On a permissive path, however, the users are visitors and so a duty of care is owed to them at all times.

Bridleway at Stilegates, Bushey
Photo: dedicated bridleroute on the Bushey/Aldenham parish boundary

The Trust has experience in drafting deeds of dedication and can help other groups do this too.
A non-exhaustive list of examples of paths created or recorded by this method follows.

Following any express dedication of a path by a landowner, it is necessary for the public to use the path before it can be recorded on the definitive map and statement. There will therefore usually be a delay between the bridleway coming into being and it appearing on the legal record of public rights of way.

Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989, Section 1

(2) An instrument shall not be a deed unless -

(a) it makes it clear on its face that it is intended to be a deed by the person making it or, as the case may be, by the parties to it (whether by describing itself as a deed or expressing itself to be executed or signed as a deed or otherwise); and
(b) it is validly executed as a deed by that person or, as the case may be, one or more of those parties.
(3) An instrument is validly executed as a deed by an individual if, and only if, -
(a) it is signed -
(i) by him in the presence of a witness who attests the signature; or
(ii) at his direction and in his presence and the presence of two witnesses who each attest the signature; and
(b) it is delivered as a deed by him or a person authorised to do so on his behalf.

Occupiers Liability Act 1984, Section 1

(1) The rules enacted by this section shall have effect, in place of the rules of the common law, to determine —

(a) whether any duty is owed by a person as occupier of premises to persons other than his visitors in respect of any risk of their suffering injury on the premises by reason of any danger due to the state of the premises or to things done or omitted to be done on them; and
(b) if so, what that duty is.
(7) No duty is owed by virtue of this section to persons using the highway, and this section does not affect any duty owed to such persons.

(9) In this section —

“highway” means any part of a highway other than a ferry or waterway;
“injury” means anything resulting in death or personal injury, including any disease and any impairment of physical or mental condition; and
“movable structure” includes any vessel, vehicle or aircraft.

[1] Greenhalgh v British Railways Board [1969] 2 All ER 114

The Court of Appeal stated that "there was at common law no duty on an occupier of land over which there is a public highway towards persons using the highway and arising out of his occupation or control of the premises. His liability was limited to acts of positive misfeasance and nothing else."

© 2009 Patchetts Green Bridleways Trust. Extracts of Acts © Crown copyright.