In Cambridgeshire, UK. I've recently had a few notices go up around my village, near farms with public footpaths, and small green spaces that local villagers roam across regularly, stating:

An application to deposit a map and statement under section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 and Section 15A(1) of the Commons Act 2006 has been made in relation to the land (or lands) described below and shown blue on the accompanying map.

PLEASE NOTE: This deposit may affect rights over the land described below. Deposits made under section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 may prevent deemed dedication of public rights of way over such land under section 31(1) of that Act. Please see guidance at http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/protected/greens/ for further information.)[sic]

It goes on to mention the location, dates, and people who applied. With an attached map that outlines the areas affected. And also says the register can be accessed at the local office (at times nobody with a full-time job could reasonably get there, go figure) or online at the following site: Landowner deposits.

What do these deposits mean? I've looked at the links and cited acts, but it's really not clear to me. The various areas being deposited include public footpaths and greens that are generally treated like 'common land' (but I guess actually aren't).

Are they simply asserting their right over the land in case they want to use it in the future? Will these deposits invalidate existing public footpaths, or rights of way, etc.? I'm slightly worried the greens that the whole village actively enjoy, and the public footpaths that I moved here for are going to have houses built on them or perhaps something else.

1 Answer 1


"Common land" is an area of law that is both complex and changing. Roughly speaking, any green space which people have been treating as public for many years can (by application to the court) be made a common, which means that there has to be public access, and it cannot be used for anything incompatible with public enjoyment. However nice this sounds for walkers, it is not good for landowners (a farmer may find that because he did not stop people walking dogs round one of his fields, he is suddenly not allowed either to plough it or to keep livestock there), so there is a procedure, called depositing, which keeps the land private.

If you want to keep the land available as a green (put another way, to take land away from the person who owns and maintains it), you will need, as a start, to take time off work to inspect the plans and find out what is actually being done. You could then form some sort of group and [hire a lawyer to] oppose the deposit and/or apply to make the land common; the result will depend on what you can prove the public have been doing there, and for how long.

Rights of way are entirely separate. If there is already a right of way along a particular footpath it cannot be extinguished, but if there is not, and the path depends on the goodwill of the landowner, then he can clearly withdraw his consent and close the path. (Assumed rights of way, where the public use a path, can become statutory; but the process is simpler and older.) The county council will have a map (and possibly a department) where you can find out what is and is not a right of way.

  • Most local authorities have now made copies of their definitive rights of way maps more easily available under open licenses, which are then plotted by useful services. If you want them for information, you can look at rowmaps.com (for example); only for actual legal issues should you need to consult the council's own highways dept. or map
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 11:02

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