Highway widths and boundaries
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors

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

  • Highway widths and boundaries
  • Minimum and maximum widths
  • Fences and walls
  • Hedges and ditches
  • Land ownership
  • Widening
  • Vertical limits—the height of a highway

Highway widths and boundaries

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, LNB News 22/05/2020 77 and statutory guidance: Making traffic regulation orders during coronavirus and Traffic Management Act 2004: network management in response to COVID-19.

Historically, the width of a highway was rarely contentious. The right of highway was (and is) a right to pass and re-pass; a right to travel from A to B. In the book English Local Government: The Story of the King's Highway, the highway was, as Sydney and Beatrice Webb wrote in 1913, not a strip of land, or any corporeal thing, but a legal and customary right:

'…a perpetual right of passage in the Sovereign, for himself and for his subjects over another's land.'

Because ancient highways were rarely surfaced, they became muddy in winter and it was necessary to divert around the muddiest parts, in order to get through at all. The Webbs tell us that:

'…if the beaten track became foundrous, the King's subjects might diverge from it, even to the extent of going upon the corn…Of this liberty, it is clear, the riders and pedestrians of the time made full use.'

Arising directly from that situation is the old legal obligation to

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