While out on patrol Sherborne Police have received a few reports from members of the public alleging that some public footpaths and other rights of way in the Dorchester & Sherborne area have been closed. Having consulted with Dorset Council, who are responsible for all rights of way, we are happy to pass on the following information to clarify the situation.
Public footpaths in England are not being closed due to Covid-19.
It is an offence under the highways act to close a public right of way without legal justification. The Government have not given any additional powers or measures to close public rights of way because of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Landowners may wish to consider the following measures:
* Tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
* Temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools. *(This is a polite request only, and there is no power for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way).
* Offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so, and permission has been obtained from relevant landowners. *(Any offered alternative route must be safe for users and livestock).
Any incidents of Rights of Way being ‘closed’ should be reported on the Dorset Council web site here:
Dorset Council: Report a problem on a public right of way
Dorset Police has a Frequently Asked Questions section on our website covering various Covid-19 related topics, including the question ‘Can I drive somewhere to do my daily exercise or walk my dog?’ All the questions may be viewed here on the Dorset Police's Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page.