‘…members of the public are in general entitled to unrestricted access to the whole and each part of a highway’.
So said Cranston J in the landmark judgment Herrick v Kidner and Somerset County Council in 2010: Open Spaces Society activist Peter Kidner took Somerset County Council to court for failing to remove gates and gateposts which obstructed part of Barcroft Lane in South Petherton. He won in the high court and secured removal of the obstructions.
Cranston J’s words were reiterated in the high court last week by Lord Justice Moore-Bick in Kind v Northumberland County Council. Alan Kind of the Byways and Bridleways Trust had challenged NCC’s failure to remove a cattle-grid which extends across Capheaton bridleway 11. He won. Said Moore-Bick LJ: ‘The very nature of a public highway is such that the right to use and enjoy it extends to the whole of its width at every point along it.’
Here in the Chilterns we are urging Buckinghamshire County Council to take action against a new fence which has been erected on Ibstone footpath 13, depriving walkers of about 71 cm, or 28 per cent, of its 1.8-metre definitive width.
Ibstone footpath 13, on the north side of Turville village, was diverted out of a garden and along the field edge in 1995 following a public inquiry at which the objectors included Bucks County Council, the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society. The confirmed order sets the highway width at 1.8 metres, or 180 cm. Now that width has been reduced to a mere 109 cm. In practice, it is less because people will not wish to walk close to the new barbed-wire fence.
We have called on Bucks County Council to take the necessary action to remove the fence and restore the path to its full width. The courts are on our side.