Relationship between the definitive map and the list of streets
The list of streets is a mandatory requirement on all highway authorities. Section
36(6) of the Highways Act 1980 states:
[Every highway authority] shall cause to be made, and shall keep corrected up to date, a list of the streets within their area which are highways maintainable at the public expense. Section 329(1) defines ‘street’ as including ‘any highway’, so a
list of streets should include all highways maintainable at the public expense –
footpaths, bridleways and carriageways.
The definitive map and statement is also a mandatory requirement on highway authorities (National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 ss.27-38).
This dual requirement on highway authorities raises some technical issues on the recording of minor highways and whether any can, or should, appear on both the list of streets and the definitive map.
The list of streets
The list of streets records the highways that a highway authority is liable to maintain at public expense. It is a record of public liability to maintain; the status of any highway therein is a matter of inference rather than conclusive. (See also Unit 4.2.1.)
The definitive map
The definitive map is a conclusive record of the status of all ways therein, but conclusive of the public liability to maintain only for some of the ways shown. (See also Unit 4.3.1.)
Reconciling the different official records
Question: Should those ways shown in the definitive map that are maintainable at public expense also be shown in the list of streets?
Answer: There is no record that any highway authority adopts such a policy. Most appear to work on the pragmatic basis that, for any way shown on the definitive map, other than a RUPP, it is assumed that the way is publicly maintainable.
Question: Can a RUPP or BOAT shown on the definitive map also properly be shown in the list of streets?
Answer: Yes. RUPPs are not automatically publicly maintainable; nor are all BOATs. But those that are can properly be shown on the list of streets (see Unit 4.3.1).
Question: Can a footpath or bridleway shown in the definitive map also be shown in the list of streets?
Answer: The list of streets derives from highway authority records in existence long before the first definitive maps were made. The instructions to the surveyors of the original definitive maps stated that ‘existing roads’ should not be entered as footpaths, bridleways or RUPPs. Some were, but the reasons why are generally not clear. It might be that the surveyor thought that the way in question was genuinely only a footpath or bridleway, even though it was shown in the authority’s roads record. It might be that the surveyor thought the way was
a right of way, but did not have knowledge of the authority’s roads record.
Both explanations create tensions, if not problems. If a way is genuinely only a footpath or bridleway, but is shown in the older roads record alongside the majority of ‘proper roads’ for some particular reason (a town centre church way,
for example), then it is conclusively publicly maintainable by virtue of its having been in existence when the 1949 Act came into force.
There is no obvious benefit to that way’s inclusion in both the list of streets and the definitive map, when almost all other ways on the definitive map are not also on the list of streets. Indeed, where an authority takes the position that highways
on the list of streets are presumptively or certainly public vehicular highways, then the public may well use that way with vehicles, even though it is also recorded elsewhere as a footpath or bridleway.
If the dual-recorded way is genuinely only a footpath or bridleway, or if there is simply no good evidence to suggest that it is more than a footpath or bridleway, the highway authority should consider removing the way from the list of streets to avoid ambiguity and confusion. Where there is evidence that such a dual-recorded way is probably more than just a footpath or bridleway, then the highway authority should make proper investigations and, if justified on the balance of probabilities, make an order modifying the definitive map to show the way as a BOAT.
Unclassified roads may or may not be within the responsibilities of the rights of way unit of a highway authority. Traditionally these roads fall within the remit of the highways unit of an authority. Because of this, there is often a lack of resources for management and development, even though unclassified roads, in many areas, form an essential part of the recreational routes network. Rights of way staff may find themselves obliged to take on board some responsibilities for unclassified roads in order to maintain the integrity of the recreational network. Some councils are looking at ways of maximizing the public’s recreational
enjoyment of unclassified roads, and may wish to make some formal transfer of responsibilities between departments.
Unclassified roads form the bridge between the ordinary road network and the rights of way network; in this they bring their own pattern of difficulties and opportunities. The recording of any road as an unclassified road brings with it issues of status, liability to repair and standard of repair. Status is the most contentious legally; liability and standard of repair the most contentious financially.
Classified road: Classification of roads was introduced in the Ministry of
Transport Act 1919 and was intended to record two classes of road (first class and second class) assessed on their importance as routes for long-distance and local traffic. First and second-class roads ultimately became ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads,
which are to a degree not roads, but routes. For example, the A1 is not a single road (although based closely on the Great North Road) but is the main route between London and Edinburgh. The designation A1 has moved a great deal in the 70 years since it was first applied, as bypasses, motorways and tunnels have been constructed. Many highway authorities developed the ‘A’ and ‘B’
classification by rating their entire network by usage, condition and maintenance. ‘C’ class is now ubiquitous. Many authorities have ‘D’; some have ‘E’, even ‘F’.
Other authorities stop classification at ‘C’ or ‘D’ and record all lesser roads as unclassified.
Unclassified road: Strictly, unclassified road means a road that was not
classified by, or for the purposes of, the Ministry of Transport circa 1930. The term originated from the Local Government Act 1929, although that Act did not expressly use the term. The Act transferred the residual responsibility for roads still vested in the rural district councils and to a lesser degree in the urban district councils, across to the county councils. The Act applies generally to all roads and in some sections only to classified roads. The non-classified roads became generally known as unclassified roads, although some authorities applied ‘C’, ‘D’, etc., ratings for their own purposes.
Unclassified county road: The Local Government Act 1929 made the county
councils the ultimate highway authority for all roads, although in urban districts the urban district council remained responsible for the unclassified roads, at least until these were improved to classified status. Because the counties were prima facie the highway authority for unclassified roads, the term ‘unclassified county road’came into widespread use, although it is not used or defined in the 1929
legislation. Such was the ubiquity of the term that it was imported by Parliament into the Agriculture (Improvement of Roads) Act 1955, under which provision
many rural roads were given a blacktop for the first time.
In many places the county ceased to be the highway authority under local government reorganisation in 1974. The Local Government Act 1972 amended
the Highways Act 1959 (which changes were carried forward to the current
Highways Act 1980) by changing ‘county’ and ‘district’ references to ‘highway authority’. This change effectively removed ‘county’ from ‘unclassified county
road’ as a current term, although many people – both highway authority
personnel and the public – still use it or its common abbreviation ‘UCR’.
White road: Unclassified roads may have a blacktop surface for modern motor traffic, but not all do or must. At the time of the Local Government Act 1929
estimates suggest that a relatively small percentage of unclassified roads were blacktopped (i.e. had been given a sealed surface by such means as tar spraying), although most had a surface metalled with roadstone. The Agriculture
(Improvement of Roads) Act 1955 provided another exchequer grant impetus to
highway authorities to blacktop many remaining stone roads. So an unclassified road may be a substantial ‘tarmac’ motor road, or a stone surfaced minor road, or
even a grass track with no (or no visible) surfacing. This physical condition is reflected in the way that the roads have been depicted on Ordnance Survey maps over the last 50 years.
The Ordnance Survey uses colour to denote a blacktop-surfaced road. For example, on the Landranger series, trunk or main roads are red, and secondary roads are brown. Other roads are in yellow, with two width categories: generally more than 4 metres wide; generally less than 4 metres wide (see the OS map legend for details). The Ordnance Survey points out that the use of the yellow coding does not automatically mean that the road is a public road. Wholly private roads across military land, or on large industrial complexes, would tend to be
yellow-coded to denote their constructional standard. But in general yellow roads are minor public roads with a sealed surface for motor and other traffic.
Where a road exists as a physical feature, but does not have a blacktop, the Ordnance Survey convention is to show it uncoloured in the natural white of the paper: hence the term ‘white road’. Not all white roads are public roads: some
are wholly private (e.g. shooting roads and water company access); others may be private for vehicles, but also carry a public path (footpath or bridleway). Where this occurs the Ordnance Survey will superimpose the public path symbol on to the white road delineation.
‘Other route with public access’: To help resolve the uncertainty caused by
the depiction of white roads, the Ordnance Survey has agreed to depict ‘other
routes with public access’. These routes are now shown on the latest OS
Explorer and Outdoor Leisure series maps by green dots, but with the qualification that ‘ The exact nature of the rights on these routes and the
existence of any restrictions may be checked with the local highway authority. Alignments are based on the best information available.’ The routes shown in
this way are essentially unclassified roads recorded by the appropriate highway authority. The information is not definitive or necessarily complete, however, and some authorities have withheld certain routes from the information passed to the Ordnance Survey. A typical ‘white road’: short, but a valuable link for
Green road or lane: The term ‘green road’ or ‘green lane’ has no legal
significance but is simply a descriptive term. Many unclassified roads are green roads or green lanes in that they have no blacktop or stone surface, or what surface there is has been covered with dirt and vegetation. Some highway authorities impose an arbitrary sub classification of unclassified roads into sealed, stone and unsurfaced, and use the term ‘green road’ to describe the latter.
Unclassified roads and recreation: In 1996 the Countryside Commission
sought guidance on the recreational importance of unclassified roads and how these might beneficially be integrated with the rights of way network. The best available figures from highway authorities showed these lengths for England only (kilometres) plainly, the length of unsealed unclassified road available makes a significant addition to the BOAT/RUPP/bridleway network, with obvious benefits for riders, cyclists, harness-horse drivers and recreational motorists. Although walkers are better served than other recreational users, the addition of unclassified roads, with their frequent ‘historic character’, enhances the walking network too.
Unsealed unclassified roads 10,199