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Consultation on vehicle access over common land

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 05 9:19 am    Post subject: Consultation on vehicle access over common land  Reply with quote    

May affect some of you...

Defra Press Release


People are being asked to for their views on repealing section 68 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) and associated vehicular access regulations.

The public consultation follows a change in the law, where property owners can in certain circumstances legally drive across common land to reach their premises.

Rural Affairs Minister Jim Knight said that the consultation dealt with a very specific and complex area of the law.

"Through this consultation, we want to hear people's thoughts on whether the provisions under 68 are redundant, and whether it would be appropriate to repeal them.

Mr Knight stressed that the consultation dealt only with vehicular access on commons, village greens, and certain similar land, and did not affect vehicular rights across other access land under CRoW.

The House of Lords ruling last year confirmed that there are circumstances in which a prescriptive right of vehicular access can be obtained, rather than needing to apply under section 68 for a statutory easement. As a consequence of this judgment it appears that the provisions of section 68 of CRoW may no longer be needed.

The measures under review were originally introduced because, under the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is a criminal offence to drive on common land without lawful authority.

"Previously, people had to negotiate with the landowner to secure lawful access, and in some cases landowners were demanding large sums for granting this," Mr Knight said.

"The 2002 regulations enabled property owners to apply for a statutory easement and established a reasonable scale of compensation to be paid by the owner of the property to the landowner.

"However if people are now able to claim a right of vehicular access to their premises through prescription, it may not be necessary to retain section 68 and the related regulations."

Defra is seeking the views of all the organisations and people who have previously expressed an interest in this area of the law. The deadline for responses is 15 November 2005.


Notes for editors

1. The House of Lords issued its judgment in the case of Bakewell Management Ltd v Brandwood and Others on 1 April 2004. The case concerned the circumstances in which it might be possible to obtain a prescriptive right of vehicular access over common, and other land, on which it is an offence to drive a vehicle. The case can be viewed at www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/2004/14.html.

2. In essence, the House of Lords decided that, because the statutory provisions leave it open to a landowner to lawfully grant the authority needed for vehicular use not to constitute an offence, there is no reason why a person who can show 20 years use as of right (not by force, in secret nor with permission), cannot acquire a right of way through prescription, either under the Prescription Act 1832 or by a lost modern grant.

3. The Vehicular Access Across Common and Other Land (England) Regulations 2002/1711 came into effect on 4 July 2002. The regulations provided certain owners of premises with a means of obtaining a statutory easement allowing vehicular access to their premises. They dealt with issues such as the criteria to be met in order to apply for easements and the levels of compensation to be paid by the owner of the premises to the owner of the common. The regulations are available on the HMSO website at www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/si/si200217.htm.

4. Copies of the consultation letter can be obtained from the Common Land Branch of Defra, Sustainable Land Use Division, Zone 1/05, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6EB. It can also be viewed from 26 September at www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-countryside/issues/common/index.htm.

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