Definition and classification of highways
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors Ltd and Alistair Frew of Lodders LLP
Definition and classification of highways

The following Local Government practice note produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors Ltd and Alistair Frew of Lodders LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Definition and classification of highways
  • Bridge
  • Bridleway
  • Byway
  • Byway open to all traffic
  • Carriageway
  • Churchway
  • Classified road
  • County road
  • Cycleway or cycle track
  • More...

Coronavirus (COVID-19): This Practice Note contains guidance on matters that have temporarily been altered to assist in the management of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For further information, see: Traffic Orders Procedure (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/536, LNB News 22/05/2020 77 and Statutory guidance: Traffic Management Act 2004: network management in response to COVID-19.

The fundamental public right in relation to a highway is for individual members of the public to pass and re-pass along its length. Along most highways, of course, but not all of them, people have an additional legal right to use vehicular transport and/or to ride a horse and/or to drive animals from one place to another.

The most frequent classifications of highways into types are by permitted traffic and by maintenance authority.

The classification of a highway by its permitted traffic derives from two sources:

  1. at common law, the dedication (or deemed dedication) of a new highway can be restricted to rights for particular traffic, ie as a footpath, as a bridleway or as a carriageway. The right to drive livestock can be given as an appurtenant right on a bridleway or a carriageway. (Note that acquisition of highway rights by deemed dedication is not now possible if the use of the way resulting in the claim was by motor vehicle)

  2. under statutory powers a highway can be

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