‘Social distancing’ and going for a walk – limits introduced in Wales


25 March 2020

As the Government continues to deal with the impact of COVID-19 by limiting public travel and promoting ‘social distancing’, many are taking daily exercise along the public rights of way network.

This has seen pressure put on some ‘hotspots’ with crowds of people failing to keep the appropriate distance apart and a pressure that is difficult for landowners to manage. The Welsh Government has taken a major step to tackle this. New Regulations give County Councils, Welsh National Park Authorities and The National Trust the power to close footpaths, bridleways and open access land with effect from midnight tonight [25 March]. 

The power is to be used by an authority to ”prevent, protect against, control or provide a public health response to the incidence or spread of infection in its area with the coronavirus”. It applies to routes and open access land where the authority considers there is a risk of large numbers of people congregating or being in close contact with each other, or where access means there is a high risk of the spread of infection of the virus in the area. The closures can last for up to six months from 25 March and anyone contravening them is liable to conviction and a fine.

It remains to be seen if the Government introduces similar restrictions in England and, if so, how widely Councils consider they should use them. Some landowners with busy routes close to their homes are already calling for closures to control the risk. 

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.

Author

Carol Ramsden

Senior Associate (Rights of Way Executive)

+44 (0)1473 406338

+44 (0)7854 834139