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Adverse Possession over a Public Highway

Written by Inam Ali on 27 April 2009

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A recent case has been reported, in which the Court confirmed the general rule that that the public could not be excluded from highway land, even where that land had not been used by the public for a considerable period. In doing so, the Court also confirmed that there are only a limited number of ways in which a public right of way can be extinguished and the public excluded from a public highway.

In the case of R (on the application of Smith) v The Land Registry and Cambridgeshire County Council, Smith applied to the Land Registry for first registration of a piece of land, based on adverse possession, claiming that his caravan and related structures had been on the land for more than 12 years (the minimum period for adverse possession). However, the Land Registry rejected the application on the basis that title could not be claimed over a highway and that such a right could not be granted to override the criminal offence that is created by obstruction of the highway.

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