Planned changes to rights of way face indefinite delay

Minister for Justice to seek permission to halt proposed changes because of concerns

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Proposed changes to how rights of way and other so-called “easement rights” are established that have led to confusion are set to be delayed indefinitely.

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys is to seek approval from the Government to remove an upcoming deadline after which changes to registering easements – such as right of way – are due to take effect.

Easements are rights which a landowner has over a neighbour’s land, including right of way, shooting and fishing rights.

Laws passed in 2009 and updated in 2011 required that these rights – which can only be acquired by users over a substantial period of years – needed to be registered either by Circuit Court order or by making an application to the Property Registration Authority.

The deadline for registering under this new system was November 30th, but concerns and confusion have emerged over how the new system would operate, including a lack of clarity over the period of time required to make a claim based on long-term use of another’s land.

Applicants have also had to give up all other potential claims when applying to the authority.

Seeking waiver

Ms Humphreys is to seek permission to amend the law removing the changes due to take place from December 1st, meaning the law will largely revert to an older system, where rights of way and other such easements were verified by a statutory declaration.

Due to time pressures, she is seeking a waiver of pre-legislative scrutiny and early signature of the amending Bill by the President.

A review to ensure the law is fit for purpose in the long term will also be undertaken.

The Cabinet will meet at 9am today in Dublin Castle to consider a slimmed-down agenda in a meeting to be chaired by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar as the Taoiseach is away on official business, visiting the United Nations in New York.

Ministers will consider the Department of Finance’s annual report, as well as Ms Humphreys’ Land and Conveyancing Law Reform (Amendment Bill), and a report on Ireland’s competitiveness challenges from the National Competitiveness and Productivity Council.

They will also consider several private members’ motions and appointments.