Defence and armed forces – guidance

Ministry of Defence: byelaws review

The byelaws review team is carrying out a far reaching overview and update of byelaws as they relate to all MOD sites in the UK.


Across the defence estate the department has numerous and varied sites ranging from coastal firing ranges to garrisons in urban areas, each with its own set of issues. A byelaws review team has been set up specifically to look at this important area. It is a painstaking and complex exercise which will take several years to complete.

As a first step the team has identified MOD sites which have no byelaws but are now deemed necessary. These have been prioritised and each in turn made subject to individual review to determine the precise individual requirements to be included.

Byelaws are a form of delegated legislation, used mostly by local authorities and government departments; they cover a defined geographical area, normally regulating certain activities in the interests of safety and security. Presently under the provisions of the Military Lands Act 1892 (s14), the Secretary of State for Defence is empowered to make byelaws to regulate the use of land being used for military purposes.

Many of these byelaws date back to the early part of the 20th century and do not reflect subsequent changes within the department or changes of use within sites. Breach of a byelaw is a criminal offence and as such the enforcement of byelaws is one of a number of tools which the department can use to help protect its sites. Equally the presence of byelaws can allow public access over areas of the estate that would otherwise be prohibited.

The review is being conducted in accordance with the principles of open government. In addition to listing all byelaws that have lapsed and those to be reviewed, it advertises proposed new byelaws as they are issued, enabling wider public consultation within the process. After being collated and recorded all responses received during the consultation process are found through this website together with the department’s replies.

As the review proceeds copies of all new byelaws made by the Secretary of State are added to the site under the reviewed byelaws category. The byelaws are also available to download from the UKSI website once made.

It is intended that this byelaws information will be maintained in perpetuity enabling free online public access to all Ministry of Defence byelaws and background material about the review.

MOD byelaws are defined in the following categories:

  • lapsed byelaws
  • revoked byelaws
  • byelaws to be reviewed
  • proposed new byelaws
  • reviewed byelaws

Additional content is added as the review progresses.

Contact details

Defence Infrastructure Organisation
Byelaws Review Team
PO Box 349
GU11 2WZ
tel: 01252 361986 (answer phone)

Byelaws by region

Select a region below to view the byelaws.

Byelaws documents

Key documents relating to byelaws:

Byelaws consultation process

Reviewed byelaws

Byelaws to be reviewed

Information held in the National Archives:

Revoked byelaws

Lapsed byelaws

Information held in the National Archives:

Why review the byelaws?

Legal, practical and technological developments have all combined to cause the review of all the MOD byelaws. Some of the main issues are as follows:

  • changes in the operational use of a range may have changed the range danger area rendering the byelaws out-of-date
  • changes in rights of access to the countryside in England and Wales, particularly as a result of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
  • changes to access in Scotland. There is a statutory requirement in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 for all byelaws to be reviewed. There is a statutory requirement to then change byelaws to meet the requirements of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code
  • changes in de-facto public access need to be considered and incorporated in the byelaws if appropriate
  • voluntary land registration has resulted in an examination of title issues and a check that MOD is operating byelaws on land which it owns, leases and licences
  • improvements in mapping technology and a relaxation in security concerns mean that we can produce better plans to attach to byelaws to make them clearer(We have noted the comments by judges that additional clarity in mapping and boundary markers would be desirable in certain cases)
  • we need to make small changes to some of the standard wording to match changes in other legislation and refer to new MOD operational structures
  • we need to clarify our control over vehicles on MOD private land and to clearly define our borders with public highways

Sites affected by SOCAP

A number of sites are subject to designations under the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCAP). MOD wishes to align the byelaws with the SOCAP designations. Enforcement of SOCAP regulations and byelaws is often undertaken by the ‘Ministry of Defence Police (MDP)’.

As part of the review MOD is seeing if it can align byelaws with other statutory instruments such as Dockyard Port Orders. This will ensure greater clarity on where one set of rules on access apply and when other legislation applies.