Q&As

Is it possible to acquire a prescriptive right to drive farm machinery along a bridleway (ie if there is evidence of prior use for that purpose)? Can vehicular rights of access be granted over a bridleway?

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Produced in partnership with Andrew Maguire of St Philips Chambers
Published on LexisPSL on 03/02/2016

The following Property Q&A produced in partnership with Andrew Maguire of St Philips Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Is it possible to acquire a prescriptive right to drive farm machinery along a bridleway (ie if there is evidence of prior use for that purpose)? Can vehicular rights of access be granted over a bridleway?

'Bridleway' means a way over which the public have the following, but no other, rights of way: a right of way on foot and a right of way on horseback or leading a horse, with or without a right to drive animals of any description along the way: see section 192(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988).

It is an offence, pursuant to RTA 1988, s 34 to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle onto or upon any road being a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway, without lawful authority. However, the offence is committed only if driving over the land is 'without lawful authority'. Since a right to drive over the land concerned could have been lawfully granted, it can be acquired by prescription. Easements may be acquired through prescription, which entitles someone to an easement once they have exercised rights over another person's land for 20 years, without using force or stealth or acting pursuant to a licence.

This point was considered by the House of Lords in Bakewell Management Ltd v Brandwood where it disapproved the case

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