Catalogue description Ordnance Survey: Records of the Deputy Director Small and Medium Scales: Rights of Way Archive: Public Path Orders

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Details of OS 78
Reference: OS 78
Title: Ordnance Survey: Records of the Deputy Director Small and Medium Scales: Rights of Way Archive: Public Path Orders

Ordnance Survey became involved with the mapping of rights of way as a result of the system of recording public rights of way set up under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949 and developed through subsequent legislation. The 1949 Act did not apply to the Administrative County of London, and some county boroughs; but the Ordnance Survey Archive may contain information relating to rights of way in these areas.

This series contains source material supplied to the Ordnance Survey by Central Government Departments and Local Authorities in England and Wales, and held within the Ordnance Survey Rights of Way Archive as 'Public Path Orders'.

The Ordnance Survey Rights of Way Archive is the record of all rights of way information received by the Ordnance Survey from various sources, in order to carry out its mapping task for England and Wales. It records how and when that information was applied to detail on the ground, and thus to the national mapping. Ordnance Survey agreed to show the rights of way information (as depicted on Definitive Maps created by the Local Authorities) on the national mapping of England and Wales, and did so from 1960.

The Definitive Maps are statutory documents which are intended to show the complete network of public rights of way in each local authority area at a given relevant date. Public Path Orders and Definitive Map Modification Orders generated by the Local Authorities are a vital source of rights of way changes approved between publications of successive editions of the Definitive Maps. The Ordnance Survey Public Path Orders Archive treated all types of order simply as mapping intelligence source material for derivation of map detail.

From 1965 Public Path Orders have been received at the Ordnance Survey on a daily basis and, subject to them being operative, have enabled revision of its public rights of way information for England and Wales without being dependent on the publication of new editions of Definitive Maps. Rights of way as shown on the Definitive Maps have legal authority under the 1949 Act, hence the use of a disclaimer by the Ordnance Survey on their own mapping since it was an interpretation of the legal position.

Public Path Orders supplied to the Ordnance Survey, vary in detail. In general each will carry a covering letter from the source authority, and a copy of the legal instrument, including a map and written description of the instrument (including any existing and new alignment of the right of way as appropriate). This will provide details of the applicable legislation under which the Order is made, and the operable date which will confirm the legal status. A schedule of conditions will be included as applicable.

The map contained within the Order, will have been created by the source authority, often using OS base mapping - usually at a scale of 1:2500 or 1:1250. The Ordnance Survey will have added the date of receipt of the Order; a library reference number to link it with the OS annotations to the definitive map; and the date on which action was applied to the Ordnance Survey's published mapping. The files in this series also include records of ongoing consultation between the OS and the local authorities regarding rights of way, as triggered by various map revision programmes. These records include sketch maps, diagrams and photographs of maps with annotations indicating changes which have been included in subsequent published mapping. Correspondence with the Ramblers' Association is also included.

On receipt of Public Path Orders, Ordnance Survey staff first checked the operative status (i.e. that it had been confirmed as effective or in force), labelled it with the details of the location of the area affected (the County in which it fell, or the relevant National Grid coordinates) and the sheet numbers for mapping series affected by the change (the one-inch series, the Landranger 1:50,000 series, the Pathfinder, Outdoor Leisure or Explorer series at 1:25,000, or Tourist maps).

Ordnance Survey has received Public Path Orders from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Transport, the Department of the Environment, Ministry of Defence and The Welsh Office, as well as from local authorities (including orders made by Magistrates Courts). Their effects on the rights of way network have been indicated on copies of the Definitive Maps held by Rights of Way Section of the Ordnance Survey.

Because of the complexities of the legal procedures there are many different types of Public Path Order, and the wording varies according to the section of the Act under which the Order was made. Public Path Orders can authorise the creation of new rights of way, can divert or extinguish existing ways, and since 1968, can re-classify existing routes. They are the result of road and rail schemes, urban development, and more efficient use of agricultural land. These orders were categorised by the Ordnance Survey as 'Amending Orders' which change the status of the route on the ground.

Modification Orders, introduced in 1981, change the status of a route on the Definitive Map and thus facilitate continuous review of that map. Amending Orders and Modification Orders are processed by the Ordnance Survey in the same way, although some Modification Orders may duplicate corresponding Amending Orders which have already been received. This is likely to be reflected in the series content. A Validation Instruction confirms a Public Path Order as operative.

Date: 1959-2007

From 1965 to 9 January 1996, the Public Path Orders are filed alphabetically by county name, and are in numerical order within each county, although some are unnumbered (pieces 1-1161). There are also a few files which were kept detached from their main county grouping (pieces 1162-1196).

After 9 January 1996 they are alphabetically arranged by National Grid 100 km square reference (e.g. NT), and are in chronological order within each grid square reference (pieces 1197-1847).

Related material:

National Parks Commission correspondence, papers and minutes are in:

Gosling Committee papers are in AT 51


Hobhouse Committee papers are in HLG 93

Gosling Committee files are in AT 26


COU 10

Policy files relating to access to the countryside are in HLG 92 HLG 92

Registered files relating to depiction of rights of way on OS maps are in OS 1

Policy paper files relating to depiction of rights of way on OS maps are in OS 11

Rights of Way Definitive Maps are in OS 75

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, Directorate of Data Collection, 1994-2003

Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, Directorate of Data Collection and Management, 2003-

Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, Directorate of Map Production and Publication, 1961-1968

Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, Directorate of Small and Medium Scales, 1947-1961

Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, Directorate of Surveys and Production, 1979-1994

Ordnance Survey of Great Britain: Directorate of Map Publication, 1968-1979

Physical description: 1847 file(s)
Access conditions: Open
Immediate source of acquisition:

in 2010 Ordnance Survey

Selection and destruction information: 3.2 Interaction of the state with its citizens and its impact on and documentation of the physical environment.
Accruals: No further accruals are expected.
Administrative / biographical background:

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 provided for classification of three types of public rights of way in England and Wales to be defined on maps of an appropriate scale, on the basis of surveys carried out by parish councils, and other local bodies, who were to submit information to the local authorities. Under the legislation the local authorities were required to prepare Definitive Maps and to publish, review and republish them at regular intervals - intended to be every five years. These maps were to be accompanied by Definitive Statements which were to be written descriptions of all rights of way shown on the Definitive Maps.

In 1958, following representations from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ordnance Survey agreed to show rights of way, as defined by the 1949 Act, on its mapping. This had been a recommendation of the National Parks Commission (chaired by Sir Arthur Hobhouse), made in its report to the Minster of Town and Country Planning in 1947. The rights of way shown on the Definitive Maps had legal authority under the Act, but there were complications associated with their representation on the national mapping.

The concern was to make it possible to keep the Ordnance Survey mapping up-to-date in the face of continuous amendment of the network made through Public Path Orders used by local authorities to amend published editions of the Definitive Maps. Ordnance Survey Policy Statement No 55, published in 1959, indicated that the national mapping would show all the public rights of way included on Definitive Maps of a certain date. However, Public Path Orders were used to update the Ordnance Survey mapping between editions of the Definitive Maps, subject to the Order being operative.

Rights of way covered by the 1949 Act included footpaths, bridleways and roads used as public paths (RUPPs). Following the report of the Committee on Footpaths (chaired by Sir Arthur Gosling), the 1968 Countryside Act introduced a process for reclassifying roads used as public paths, introducing byways open to all traffic (BOATs). From this date the Ordnance Survey began to receive from the local authorities the results of the special reviews set up under the 1968 Act (Reclassification Orders), and introduced a new map symbol for byways.

The Local Government Act 1972 created new counties and transferrred areas between counties. This necessitated a rearrangement of Ordnance Survey holdings of Definitive Map cover and the Amending Orders filing system. Within this Right of Way Archive names of local authorities were changed only when new Definitive Maps were published.

The 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act abolished the requirement for five-year reviews of Definitive Maps (requiring the local authorities to keep all rights of way under continuous review), and introduced Modification Orders in England and Wales. These Orders were supplied to the Ordnance Survey from this date.

The series also includes Orders made under the Town and Country Planning Acts of 1971 and 1990, the New Towns Act of 1946, and the Highways Acts of 1959, 1971 and 1980; as well as those made to cover temporary effects of the Mineral Working Act of 1951 and the Road Traffic Regulations Act of 1967. Statutory obligations to supply the Ordnance Survey was established in 1993 for Public Path Orders made under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 - Statutory Instrument 1993/10; and under the Highways Act 1980 - Statutory Instrument 1993/11.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000 also extended public access, and indentified Open Access Areas, established by Commencement Orders. These changes are depicted on the Conclusive Maps produced by the Countryside Agency (now part of Natural England) and the Countryside Council for Wales. These are regional definitive maps, produced between 2001 and 2005, recording land which qualifies as open country or registered common land. The areas thus defined have been incorporated on the Ordnance Survey Explorer mapping - which replaced the Outdoor Leisure mapping in 2002.

The Ordnance Survey's Rights of Way Section was from the outset a part of the Directorate of Small and Medium Scales. From 1961 this became the Directorate of Map Production and Publication, and from 1968 simply the Directorate of Map Publication. Internal restructuring by 1979 created the Directorate of Surveys and Production which in 1991 included the Rights of Way Section as part of the Small Scale Services Branch, in turn part of Carto 3 Division. The Section was responsible for maintaining the public rights of way information published on the Pathfinder, Outdoor Leisure, Landranger and Tourist Maps series. In 1994 a new operational unit was created entitled 'Mapping Intelligence', which included Rights of Way, Tourism, Small Scale Carto, large Scale Carto, and a supporting survey unit. Mapping intelligence was part of the Directorate of Data Collection until 2003, when it moved into the new Directorate of Data Collection and Management.

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