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Understanding Private Rights of Way

Posted on 19/10/2017
Private Garden Path

Having good neighbours is something many of us take for granted, until we hear of a dispute over shared driveways or overgrown hedges. Situations that may seem petty to an outsider can be huge sources of stress when they affect our daily lives. We have previously discussed boundary agreements and your rights regarding the putting up, taking down and maintaining of fences – but what about understanding rights of way, especially in cases of back gardens? 

Know Your Rights

Every house has their boundaries and rights of way listed in the title deeds, which can be obtained from the land registry, however these can often be vague or missing key details. If irregularities occur between neighbours’ deeds it can be difficult to agree on a solution, and a solicitor may be needed to interpret the legal terminology of the documents.

Deeds will show if the right of way applies to those on foot or in vehicles. On foot permits one to pass and repass without lingering and the pathway should be no less than 90cm wide. Vehicular right of way allows vehicles of up to a permitted size along the carriageway or driveway, to load and unload but not to park.  

Easements are rights that benefit one area of land (the dominant tenement) that permits rightful users of that land to perform specific actions over a neighbouring part of land (the servient tenement). Easements can be created by express grant – whereby it is stated in a deed, by necessity – when a route is the only means of access, or by prescription – when someone carries out an act, which could be an easement, repeatedly, openly and without permission for more than twenty years.

Bisected Gardens

Many houses in Norwich are Victorian terrace houses with shared passageways and bisected rear gardens. If you are the first in a row of bisected gardens, it may be annoying to have several neighbours pass through – however, all of them have a right of way over the pathway. It is against the law to block access to the path, however if there are concerns over security you can affix a lock to a gate provided all neighbours have a key or combination. 

For privacy in the garden, you can fence off your part of the garden, with a locked gate if you wish, as long as it doesn’t obstruct the shared path or reduce its width to less than 90cm. 


Conversely, if you live in deepest Norfolk you may have a large garden or neighbour a farm – in which case rights of way issues may arise around ramblers, dog walkers and farm animals! If you are happy for a path on your land to be used by ramblers or dog walkers, you may wish to close it for a day or two each year to stop it becoming a public right of way by prescriptive easement. 

Fencing your garden or land if you neighbour a farm, woodland or green means it is easily distinguished as private land. If a public right of way does exist on your land, you must keep the route visible, unobstructed and well maintained. Gates and stiles on private land are the responsibility of the landowner, although you can claim 25% of the cost from the highway authority. Any new gates or structures on a public right of way must have permission from the local highway authority, or may be removed at the landowner’s expense. 

If you would like to use our fencing services, please get in touch. You can call us on 07914 840995 or email

For more information on the legalities of rights of way, check out the Boundary Problems website and the Gov.UK pages on the topic.

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