New OPR Case Study Paper Analyses Public Rights of Way Management by Local Authorities


A new case study paper published by Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has for the first time, researched and analysed how local authorities manage and record the issue of Public Rights of Ways (PROWs) in their respective counties.

The paper entitled Public Rights of Way and the Local Development Plan: A Survey Report on the Operation of Section 10(2)(o) of the Planning Act,’ details investigative research and analysis of current practices regarding PROWs, publishes findings of a survey of local authority development plans and a outlines good practice in the area.

Among the key findings are:

• All development plans refer to the issue of PROWs
• 91% of plans identify policy objectives for the protection/preservation of PROWs;
• However, only 31% of plans have an inventory of PROWs including their recording on maps;
• 63% of plans, including some plans that have an existing inventory and maps of PROWs, state objectives to identify PROWs during the lifetime of plan; and
• 29% plans had no inventory or map of PROWs nor an objective to identify any PROWs during lifetime of plan.

The planning process has recognised the importance of rights of way for many years. Since 2010, planning legislation obliges local authorities to include information for the public in their statutory development plans, including lists and maps on the extent of PROWs existing in their areas. (1)

Planning Regulator, Niall Cussen said;

“Ireland, like many other places around the world, has seen unprecedented increased demand on access to the outdoors since the Covid-19 pandemic. Public rights of way are an essential part of the amenity and recreational facilities available to the public which help people enjoy physical attributes of local communities, whether they provide access to rivers, seashore, lakes, uplands or other amenities and the planning process has a specific role to play in protecting key strategic rights of way.”

On foot the importance of walking and amenity access in the current pandemic, we undertook a preliminary review of the issue to analyse local authorities’ implementation of their obligations regarding PROWs. We also felt it was a good opportunity to highlight emerging and ongoing good practice to ensure a more consistent approach.

The findings, good practice guide and recommendations in this case study report will help local authorities in their obligations regarding PROWs when preparing their development plans. Consequently, this will mean that the public are better informed about what and how amenities can be accessed and enjoyed.”

This is the first in a series of OPR Case Study Papers. They are issued to promote shared learning and highlight best practice accordance with the OPR’s statutory remit to engage in education, training and research activities

  1. Section 10(2)(o) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended requires that: ‘The development plan shall include objectives for… the preservation of public rights of way which give access to seashore, mountain, lakeshore, riverbank or other place of natural beauty or recreational utility, which public rights of way shall be identified both by marking them on at least one of the maps forming part of the development plan and by indicating their location on a list appended to the development plan.