I want to make an offer on a lovely house with a large garden, but I was dismayed to see that a public footpath runs along the edge of the garden and into the fields. Can I get the footpath relocated?

A public footpath is a granted right for members of the public to access across land, and is usually established by express dedication given by a landowner to the public for a right of way across his land. Another way of having a footpath created is in terms of Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980 where there can be a presumed dedication of a right of way if the public have used it, unchallenged, for a period of at least 20 years.

You may be able to divert the public right of way permanently but you will have to make an application for a public path order to the local authority in order to do so. The local authority will consider such factors as if the diversion of the footpath is necessary for development of the land, and planning permission has been granted for such development. Another factor is if the diversion will benefit the owner of the property, or if it will benefit the public. Another factor, which may result in closure, is if the footpath is in fact no longer used by the public.

The time a public path order takes to be granted is approximately six months, but in most cases, longer if any member of the public objects to the diversion or closure. The process of granting or refusing a diversion or closure takes the above factors into consideration, before the public path order is published in the local newspaper and on site, for formal consultations to be held over 4 weeks. If there is no objection to the footpath being diverted or closed then the local authority publish the confirmation order. This is a simplistic explanation of the process to divert or close the footpath.

The answer is that a footpath diversion or closure order will take a long period of time, and may not be successful at all. This must be taken into consideration when deciding whether to buy your dream home.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.