Lost Ways – User Evidence

Historic evidence is not the only way to make a DMMO application to claim a route that isn’t recorded on the definitive map. The 2026 cut off date does not apply to user evidence claims, they can still be submitted beyond the 1st January 2026 unlike historic claims.

User evidence is evidence presented either in written form or recorded from oral statements from people who have used a route for 20 years or more.

The 20 year period must be 20 years predating any challenge of use for example a ‘no public right of way’ sign, a locked gate or a landowner declaration under Section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980. Each person who has used the route doesn’t need to have done so continuously for the 20 year period but several statements of use must overlap within this period.

The status of the application route depends on who has been using the route. For example if only pedestrians have been using it then a footpath is claimed, if horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians have used it then bridleway is claimed, if carriage drivers, non motorised vehicles and lower users then a restricted byways and finally is motorised vehicles and all other users have been using it then a byway open to all traffic is claimed.

The first place to start is to find as many users as possible that have used the route for the required time period. This may be simple if you live in the area and know others who have used the route but if not, you may need to do some digging to find others. You should ask eye witnesses if they can suggest any other users, parish councils may know of elderly users or users that may have moved away from the area, local business people may know of users, for example local livery yards may know of horse riders that have used the route or a local ramblers group may know of walkers. If you need more users then a notice in your village newspaper or on a local notice board may bring more users to you.

The route may have been used nec vi, nec clam, nec precario, which means ‘without force, without secrecy, without permission’. The applicants evidence must be good and truthful, as memories may vary over time. The applicants must be willing to stand up in court if the application were to go to public enquiry. This can be vital to the success of an order and lack of witnesses at an Inquiry immediately reduces the strength of the evidence.

The process for submitting a user evidence DMMO is straight forward requiring the statement of use and a signed map. Highway authorities usually prefer evidence to be submitted on their own Evidence Forms as this makes it easier to compare and assess. Witness statements from elderly members of the community who saw people using the route are also pertinent.

So it’s time to get together and make sure the routes we are using regularly are safeguarded for the future generations to use them.

Lost Ways public rights of way

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