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‘Right of way warning’ for rural landowners

A Rural law expert is warning landowners to be aware of the rules on sharing joint rights of way following a landmark legal ruling.

Helen Clutterbuck, solicitor in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team at Cumbria and Lancashire law firm Napthens, reveals it is a common scenario for rural landowners to share rights of way.

A recent case saw the High Court decide whether the owners of land, subject to a right of way, had made changes along its length which interfered with its use.

The case, Kingsgate Development Projects Ltd v Jordan, heard that users of the land had complained about the installation of an unlocked, electrically-operated gate, and the installation of a third gate over the 100m length of land.

Ultimately it was decided the electric gate did not substantially interfere with the use of the land, but that the third gate installed in less than 100m did, and should be removed.

Helen Clutterbuck of Napthens said: “A typical situation is where a farmer or equestrian owner, for instance, wants to install a gate to prevent the escape of animals, and a neighbouring landowner not wanting to spend time opening a gate and finding it a hindrance.

“Important points for landowners and users to take away from this High Court decision are that simply erecting a gate will not usually interfere with a right of way, even if it narrows the right of way at that point; however, where there is more than one in a short distance it may.

“The court also found that an electric automated gate was not usually a nuisance, particularly one that opened at a push of a button, as this was more convenient than manual gates.

“It’s important for those thinking of installing any gates across a shared right of way to seek legal advice prior to doing so, and then they can ensure their position is fully protected.”