Ownership of highway land
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors Ltd and Alistair Frew of Lodders LLP
Ownership of highway land

The following Local Government guidance 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:

  • Ownership of highway land
  • Vested land
  • Land belonging to the highway authority

Some highway land is merely vested in the highway authority and other highway land belongs completely to the authority.

Vested land

The key to an understanding of the ownership of highway land lies in its history. As Sydney and Beatrice Webb wrote in The Story of the King's Highway in 1913:

'To the citizen of today, the King's Highway appears as an endless strip of land, with definite boundaries, permanently and exclusively appropriated to the purpose of passage, with a surface specially prepared for its peculiar function. To the citizen of the twelfth, the fifteenth, or even the eighteenth century, the King's Highway was a more abstract conception. It was not a strip of land, or any corporeal thing, but a legal and customary right” as the lawyers said, "a perpetual right of passage in the sovereign, for himself and his subjects over another's land". In one of our oldest law-books it is definitely laid down that "the King has nothing but the passage for himself and his people". What existed, in fact, was not a road, but what we might almost term an easement” a right of way, enjoyed by the public at large from village to village, along a certain customary course, which, if much frequented, became a beaten track. But the judges held that it was "the good