Harvey v Truro Rural District Council: 1903

Land which had been built over was part of the public highway. The highway authority had as far back as living memory extended used a portion of a strip alongside a highway for the purpose of depositing material for the repair of the roads. A few years previously a somewhat larger space was required and the surveyor for the highway authority had, without any authority from his employers, arranged to pay the owner of the adjoining land in respect of this. Later the surveyor’s action was practically repudiated by the authority.
Held: In the case of an ordinary highway running between fences, the right of passage prima facie extended to the whole of the ground between the fences, and the public were not confined to the metalled portion. The mere consent of a highway authority to an obstruction on the highway is ineffectual for the purposes of legalising it. Even if the highway authority had actually consented to any obstruction or encroachment upon the strip being part of the highway, such consent could not legalise that which was otherwise illegal.
Joyce J said: ‘It is an established maxim that once a highway always a highway. The public cannot release their rights. Mere disuse of a highway cannot deprive the public of their rights. Where there has once been a highway no length of time during which it may not have been used will preclude the public from resuming the exercise of the right to use it if and when they think proper. The authorities for this are to be found in any of the ordinary text-books on the law of highways, and there is a well-known case where some of the encroachments on the roadside waste had existed for more than forty years, but it was held that no period of modern enjoyment was of any avail to deprive the public of the right they had once enjoyed.
Suppose, then, that in the year 1885 the plaintiff’s predecessor in title, as owner of the Trenowth estate, had succeeded in inclosing the strip of land now in question in the absence of effective opposition from the then highway authority, it appears to me that even uninterrupted possession for the seventeen years before the present dispute began would not and could not have legalised the encroachment. ‘
Joyce J
[1903] 2 Ch 63
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedSmith, Regina (on the Application of) v The Land Registry (Peterborough Office) Admn 13-Feb-2009
The applicant sought judicial review of the cancellation of his application for first registration of land by adverse possession. The application had been rejected because a public right of way existed through it, and the claimant had not shown the . .
CitedHerrick and Another v Kidner and Another Admn 17-Feb-2010
Psychological Obstruction to Public Footpath
A public footpath crossed the appellants’ land. They constructed a gateway across it which they now accepted had been a significant obstruction of the right of way. The local authority served a notice requiring its removal, including the stone . .
CitedSmith, Regina (on The Application of) v Land Registry (Peterborough Office) and Another CA 10-Mar-2010
The appellant had lived in a caravan on the verge of a byway and had been here for more than twelve years. He appealed against rejection of his request for possessory title. He said that there was no support in law for the maxim that adverse . .

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Updated: 23 April 2021; Ref: scu.320859