Maintaining the Definitive Map
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 required all highway authorities to compile maps showing public rights of way. "Definitive Maps", as they are called, were drawn up from information submitted by parish councils, from surveys by other groups, and from old documents. They were prepared in three stages: Draft Map, Provisional Map and finally the Definitive Map. At each stage there was the opportunity to make objections about the inclusion or exclusion of any particular route.
The Definitive Map in relation to the Yorkshire Dales dates from the early 1950s and is conclusive evidence that the routes recorded are public rights of way. Even if such a path is seldom used, it remains legally open to the public. The public rights of way shown on Ordnance Survey maps are taken from the information held by Highway Authorities on their Definitive Maps.
Each footpath, bridleway and byway should also be described in the "Definitive Statement", which accompanies the map and which may give additional information about matters such as stiles and gates.
The Definitive Map is continually updated to take account of any legal changes that are made to the network as a result of diversions and so on, as well as the addition of paths previously omitted or the correction (even deletion) of paths that were wrongly shown.
Help or advice on any of these matters may be obtained from either North Yorkshire or Cumbria County Council. The Authority's Right of Way officer can help with Path Orders (creations and diversions), and can give general advice on rights of way matters.