Highway authorities have a duty to make sure that their Definitive Map is as complete and accurate as possible. It is known that - in common with the position in many other counties - many of Suffolk's historic rights of way have not yet been put on the Map.
The County Council has an on-going programme of investigation of claimed public rights of way and, as a result, there is a steady stream of paths being added to the Map when the case has been proved – see 'Changes and additions to the Suffolk network'.
However, the process of mapping historic routes will come to end in January 2026 - on which date most rights of way that have not been put on the Map will be legally extinguished.
The Suffolk Area branch of the Ramblers' Association is closely involved with this process and keen to make sure that all historic rights of way are safely 'on the Map' by that date.
If you know of any routes that are not on the map which you believe to be public rights of way - please contact the Area Footpaths Secretary, Jim Richards.
The responsibility for making sure that public rights of way are kept in good condition and free from obstacles lies with the Highway Authority, i.e. The Suffolk County Council.
The Council has set up two teams for looking after its rights of way, each of them headed by an Area Rights of Way Officer. These are located as follows :-
East Area Saxmundham
West Area Bury St Edmunds
It is not permissible to alter the route or the status of a public right of way unless the requisite formal procedure has been carried out, although people quite often do make unofficial changes which have no lawful basis.
If anybody wishes to divert or extinguish a right of way, they must apply to the appropriate authority. In Suffolk, most changes are carried out by the district councils -see details below - but the County Council can also make the necessary arrangements.
When an authority receives an application, it carries engages in a wide-ranging consultation before deciding whether or not to take any further action. The Suffolk RA local footpath secretaries team scrutinises all proposals very carefully before giving an opinion.
If the authority thinks the proposed change is a reasonable one, it must publish and advertise the necessary order. Provided that there are no objections within the time allowed, the authority brings the change into effect by confirming the order. If there are objections, these are dealt with by an independent inspector - usually at a public inquiry.
The Suffolk `order-making' authorities are:-
|Babergh District Council||01473 822801|
|Forest Heath District Council||01638 719000|
|Ipswich Borough Council||01473 432000|
|Mid Suffolk District Council||01449 720711|
|St Edmundsbury Borough Council||01284 763233|
|Suffolk Coastal District Council||01394 383789|
|Waveney District Council||01502 562111|
|Suffolk County Council||01473 264000|
All routes which are public rights of way should be shown on the Definitive Map produced by the relevant highway authority. In Suffolk this is the County Council - see `What to do about a problem'.
Walkers may use all kinds of right of way. The categories are :-
Footpaths, bridleways - usable by riders and cyclists - or public vehicular routes known as byways open to all traffic (BOATs). Some have been known as `Roads used as public paths ( RUPPs), but this term will soon be obsolete and a new category known as a `restricted byway' is being introduced. These will be usable by non-motorised vehicles as well as by those who are entitled to use bridleways.
All routes shown on definitive maps should also be marked on Ordnance Survey 1 : 25,000 maps e.g. the Explorer series and 1 : 50,000 ones. Be warned, however, that they can be several years out of date and not necessarily 100 % accurate. See also 'What if it's not on the map?'
Where can you see definitive maps? Copies are kept in the County Council's head office in Ipswich and the three Area Offices - see `What to do about a problem'. They should also be available for inspection – for its own area only - in the office of the local district council.
An act of Parliament passed in the year 2000* gave all highway authorities the duty of drawing up a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP). This is a very detailed process and Suffolk CC has been busy dealing with the first stage - which is to produce its 'Assessment Report'.
In order to do this, the CC has been carrying out extensive consultations and fact-finding surveys to discover :-
The CC's investigations have confirmed what was already well-known to members of Suffolk RA, i.e. that there are many problems associated with the routes which are already shown on the County's Definitive Map, the worst of which are that there are quite a lot which are marked as culs-de-sac paths, ending, absurdly, at parish or district boundaries and many more which are equally unusable because they cross or terminate on dangerous roads.
In addition, as we have been careful to point out, there are several areas where there is a serious shortage of public paths of any variety - a situation which is particularly acute in the west and north-west of the County. We have carried out our own study of the position and - in anticipation of the arrival of the next stages of the ROWIP - have drawn up a set of suggestions for the creation of new paths and the improvement or extension of others.
We have submitted a list of 80 proposals which, in our view, deserve priority consideration - see below. It will be noted that are large proportion of them are proposals for bridleways; this is because it is known that the CC is much more likely to take the necessary action if the new routes can also benefit riders and cyclists.
Key FP = Footpath BR = Bridleway Rest. BY = restricted byway
|1||Fornham St Martin & Gt. Barton||BR|
|4||Fornham St Martin||BR|
|14||Gazeley & Herringswell||BR|
|22||Stoke by Clare, Wixoe & Sturmer||BR|
|23||Stoke by Clare||BR|
|24||Haverhill & Helions Bumpstead||FP|
|26||Barnardiston to Stradishall||BR|
|27||Great Thurlow & Withersfield||BR|
|29||Eye & Hoxne||BR|
|32||Gisleham & Kessingland||FP|
|33||Sotterley & Willingham||FP|
|36||Stowupland & Creeting St Peter||FP|
|37||Combs & Gt Finborough||FP|
|38||Bucklesham & Levington||BR|
|39||Trimley St Mary & St Martin||BR|
|40||Martlesham & Waldringfield||FP|
|42||Edwardstone & Newton||BR|
|43||Stoke by Nayland||BR|
|45||Fornham All Saints||BR|
|46||Fornham All Saints & Hengrave||Rest. BY|
|49||Westley & Saxhams||BR|
|54||Hawstead & Horringer||BR|
|56||Bradfield Combust & St Clare||FP|
|58||Kentford & Moulton||BR|
|59||Clare & Hundon||FP|
|61||Rougham & Thurston||BR|
|62||Boxford & Edwardstone||BR|
|63||Hoxne & Syleham||BR|
|64||Bures St Mary & Lamarsh||FP|
|68||Fornham. St Martin to Gt Livermere||BR|
|69||Tostock to Woolpit||FP/BR|
|70||Barrow to Denham||BR|