Coronavirus and Rights of Way
From 5 January 2021 England will be in national lockdown. Stay at home means that you must not leave or be outside of your home except where necessary.
You may leave the home to:
- shop for necessities for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work – but only if you can’t work from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- attend education or childcare - for those eligible
Please follow these steps:
- Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.
- Exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- Follow social distancing guidelines when meeting with anyone from outside your household.
- You should not travel outside your local area to exercise.
- Keep the recommended distance if you encounter other users, staff or landowners - 2 metres (6 feet) apart.
- Please leave gates on rights of way as you find them - some landowners may tie gates open at this time to avoid the need for path users to touch the gate.
- On rights of way, consider using any alternative routes suggested that enable you to avoid going near houses and working farm or stable areas.
- Follow the Countryside Code.
- You may want to wear gloves to prevent infection when using gates and stiles.
- Wash your hands when you return home.
Please help us to keep the sites safe, usable and wildlife friendly:
- Taking your litter home so our staff can focus on critical operations
- Stay on paths and keep dogs on leads
If you encounter a problem when using the path network please report it to us.
Please note: we operate a rights of way charter to manage the path network but the target deadlines are affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Whilst we will endeavour to respond to the more serious category 1 and 2 issues within our normal time scales, this may not be possible at this time.
Issues categorised as ploughing and cropping or 3 and 4 will be addressed only if resources allow.
We are not currently being supported by volunteers due to the pandemic and our own staff may be needed to support Staffordshire’s more vulnerable residents and assist in other areas at this time.
The county council and DEFRA are aware of the concerns raised by landowners that the use of public rights of way that run through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to residents and farm workers.
The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the government's instructions to maintain social distancing.
What cannot legally be done, unless the government changes the law, is the closure of any part of the highway network. To do otherwise could be a criminal offence.
However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:
- tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate
- temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools. The signage should be advisory and not act as a deterrent to legitimate usage of the path network. A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way. The County Council has produced a notice in line with this guidance which you can download here:
- offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained. If a landowner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice. The County Council has produced a notice in line with this guidance which you can download here:
These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.
Guidance from Defra
Please see this guidance note from Defra which includes further notes on legal considerations.