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Barrier Management, Review and Redesign

Barriers typically exist on Public Rights of Way (PRoW) for three main reasons: to warn/slow users at the approach of a percieved point of danger, to prevent access to protected green spaces (e.g. woodland) by unauthorised users e.g. motorcyclists, or to contain livestock. Once in place however, many outlive their purpose, yet remain as permanent landscape features. Many others that do need to remain are poorly designed for purpose, without careful consideration of the needs of the full range of entitled users.

One way or another, the continued existence of such barriers 
prohibits access for many wheelchair and scooter users, parents with larger prams or buggies, and today also users of e-cargo bikes, all of whom are legally entitled to use the PRoW that they cross.


Designing for all is not always straightforward. It should however always be the starting point of any design, construction and installation process.


This page provides support and guidance for those concerned with barrier review, improvement or removal, with the aim of optimising access for all.

The guiding principle: 'the least restrictive option for the land use needs, for all legitimate users'

What Barriers?

"I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it" (Soren Kierkegaard)

The nature of the issue

Barriers take many shapes, including:

  • Gates and stiles 

  • Kissing Gates (increasingly 'accessible' versions are built that accommodate manual chair users at least, but many older style remain)

  • A Frame and K Frame barriers

  • Staggered barriers and chicanes

In addition there are other man-made features, not intended as barriers but effectively obstructing passage to some, by virtue of their design, for example:​

  • Bridges and boardwalks (e.g. where stepped on approach, narrow, or built without guard/hand rails etc)

Some of these barriers continue to serve a purpose and need to remain, but many people across diverse circumstances are negatively impacted by the continued existence of barriers that no longer serve a purpose or are poorly designed.

Those typically impacted include mobility-restricted walkers and chair users:

  • Manual and electric chair users

  • Mobility scooter and all-terrain chair users

  • Ambulant disabled and older walkers

And also impacted

  • Parents with buggies

  • Cyclists and ecargo bikes (dependent on path status)

  • Horseriders (as above)

In assessing the need for barriers and their optimum design, the overarching principle should always be for:

The least restrictive option for the land use needs, for all legitimate users

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Legal & Design Imperatives
Design specifications and available products

Scottish Natural Heritage: Countryside Access Design Guide:

A series of technical specification sheets on accessible pathway and barrier design (best options), including for example:



Paths for All (for a healthier, happier Scotland):

Extensive downloadable guidance on pathway design for rural settings, and have developed two  demonstration sites (for path types and barriers) , as detailed here:


Lake District National Park: Structures Standards Approved (2011)

Design specifications
Examples of barriers on the market

To find new things, take the path you took yesterday (John Burroughs, 1837-1921)

Local barrier audits

Some examples of barrier types available on the market

Medium / large acessible kissing gate:

Large kissing gate with radar key option for full access by larger chairs and scooters 

Two-way self-closing gates with easy-access latch.



Local Walk/Cycle Barrier Audits

  • Colchester Orbital barrier audit (PDF: walking route only, PDF)

    This audit formed part of the early development of the Orbital route and remains an active document, upon which efforts to improve this major aspect of Orbital accessibility are founded.


  • Colchester Borough barrier audit (Google Map: foot and cycle paths)

    This map is a live map to which members of Colchester's walking, cycling and e-cargo bike communities are gently contributing as they go about their journeys! 

    It includes and expands upon those barriers identified in the Orbital audit above. Its purpose is to build a picture of barriers in the borough, old and new, and to identify those most problematic or redundant with a view to their eventual redesign or removal. It is vehicle for ongoing collaboration and discussion around this issue.

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Guidance on reporting barriers

"Some people like to make a little garden out of life and walk down a path"(Jean Anouilh, 1910-1987)

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Guidance for those wishing to report a barrier

If a particular barrier is preventing access along a footpath by you or somebody you know, and you believe you are entitled to use that path, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Check whether the barrier is already identified on the Colchester Borough barrier audit map (immediately above). This will give you an indication of whether the barrier has been raised as an issue previously, and any progress already made. If necessary, add your own pin to the map.

  2. Post a description of the problem on ECC Highways 'Tell Us and Track It' - a reporting site set up exactly for purpose: 

  3. Raise the barrier as an issue with the relevant county councillor for the division the barrier is located within. They will be able to make a representation on your behalf. You can find details of the relevant councillor here:

  4. Let us know if you have difficulty with any of the above steps - we can help!

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