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Detailed Practice Notes written by our Professional Support Lawyers, guiding you through the key issues in each topic.
Classification and extent of highways - overviewClassification
The most frequent classifications of highways into types are by permitted traffic and by maintenance authority. Most highways are maintained by a highway authority, rather than private landowners.
The classification of a highway by its permitted traffic derives from two sources:
at common law, the dedication (or deemed dedication) of a new highway can be restricted to rights for particular traffic, ie as a footpath, as a bridleway or as a carriageway
under statutory powers a highway can be created for one or more particular types of traffic
For more details of the types of highways see Practice Note.
Extent of highways and ownership
At common law the highway may be of any width. This will usually be a sufficient width for the traffic it is intended to serve. There are statutory minimum widths in the Highways Act 1980. Highway authorities have an express power to widen existing highways.
Highway authorities may erect posts to mark the legal boundary of any highway. Adjoining landowners may put up fences or hedges or dig ditches to evidence the highway boundary. It is a question of fact in each case, drawing on the purpose of the fence, ditch and/or hedge, whether the structures are part of the highway or part of the adjoining land.
Highway authorities may erect new bridges and footbridges over highways and also permit the owner or occupier of adjacent premises to build a bridge across a highway. It is usual to prescribe the building standard expected of these structures.
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