[Talk-GB] Property extents

David Woolley forums at david-woolley.me.uk
Tue Jan 15 12:36:52 UTC 2019

On 15/01/2019 12:00, Martin Wynne wrote:
> Given that they are part of the public highway, it's puzzling why the 
> Environment Agency feels the need to compulsorily acquire the rights to 
> pass and repass over them? And what about the rest of us? Is it usual 
> for small areas of tarmac in the public highway to be privately owned? 
> Should I give thanks every time I pass that way that the owners have not 
> erected toll booths on each side?

Yes it is usual.

Being a public highway only gives limited rights regarding moving 
vehicles and people.  Some more rights may arise if it is also 
maintained at public expense.

Whilst I may have originally stated that ownership belongs to the 
fronting properties (but note that the duty to maintain unadopted public 
highways does belong to those), public highways will generally be owned 
by either the fronting properties, or the developer that created those 
properties.  In the latter case, there is a good chance that they have 
gone out of business and the land was unsellable, so has reverted to the 

I live in blocks of flats that were built around the end of a cul de 
sac, whilst it was unadopted.  It is now adopted, but there has been no 
change to the freehold title as a result, so the end of the road still 
belongs to the flats, although maintained at public expense.

I saw the original title plans for the first place my parents owned, and 
their boundaries went to the middle of the road.  That was possibly 
before compulsory land registration, so I would need to pay a small fee 
to see what the registered title plan says.

Looking at the new build house they then bought, and noting that it the 
Land Registry map search is not precise enough to isolate just a road, 
one find that as well the individual plots, what must be the road itself 
is identified as "Land associated with xx xxxxxx Avenue", where xx 
xxxxxx is constant throughout the estate.  I imagine the title register 
for this will show the builder/developer as the owner.

Note that public highways don't have to be adopted (maintained at public 
expense), so both the legal ownership and maintenance responsibility can 
be private.

Certain statutory undertaking do get a right to ride roughshod over 
property rights, and being maintained at public expense does appear to 
include granting rights for things like phone boxes and telecoms cabinets.

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