Obstruction of highways
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox Solicitors

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

  • Obstruction of highways
  • Criminal offence of obstruction
  • Abatement of the nuisance of obstruction
  • Civil damages for obstruction
  • Picnics, pickets and demonstrations
  • Public Spaces Protection Orders
  • Caravans and travellers camping on the highway
  • Street trading

Obstruction of highways

The fundamental public right upon a highway is to pass and re-pass, and the obstruction of a highway is usually a criminal offence as well as a tort.

Highway authorities are under a statutory duty to prevent, so far as possible, the stopping up or obstruction of highways in their areas.

Criminal offence of obstruction

The wilful obstruction of a highway without lawful excuse is one of several criminal offences. The range of lawful excuses would include statutory powers to plant trees in highways, to put up barriers within highways or to put gates across them. It would also cover a situation where a landowner had dedicated a highway subject to a restriction allowing what would otherwise be an obstruction, such as a pre-existing bridge or overhanging building. A third type of lawful excuse might be evident when a frontager exercises lawful rights to use the highway for access to their premises, including the occasional use of scaffolding.

Abatement of the nuisance of obstruction

Obstruction is a nuisance contrary to common law and the law permits the abatement of an obstruction of such a nuisance. This common law right is expressly preserved by the Highways Act 1980 (HiA 1980). The right at common law is to remove a physical obstruction, but if an obstructed private individual could readily go around the obstruction or easily use a different

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