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Highways Act 1980

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31 Dedication of way as highway presumed after public use for 20 years.E+W

(1)Where a way over any land, other than a way of such a character that use of it by the public could not give rise at common law to any presumption of dedication, has been actually enjoyed by the public as of right and without interruption for a full period of 20 years, the way is to be deemed to have been dedicated as a highway unless there is sufficient evidence that there was no intention during that period to dedicate it.

[F1(1A)Subsection (1)—

(a)is subject to section 66 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (dedication by virtue of use for mechanically propelled vehicles no longer possible), but

(b)applies in relation to the dedication of a restricted byway by virtue of use for non-mechanically propelled vehicles as it applies in relation to the dedication of any other description of highway which does not include a public right of way for mechanically propelled vehicles.]

(2)The period of 20 years referred to in subsection (1) above is to be calculated retrospectively from the date when the right of the public to use the way is brought into question, whether by a notice such as is mentioned in subsection (3) below or otherwise.

(3)Where the owner of the land over which any such way as aforesaid passes—

(a)has erected in such manner as to be visible to persons using the way a notice inconsistent with the dedication of the way as a highway, and

(b)has maintained the notice after the 1st January 1934, or any later date on which it was erected,

the notice, in the absence of proof of a contrary intention, is sufficient evidence to negative the intention to dedicate the way as a highway.

(4)In the case of land in the possession of a tenant for a term of years, or from year to year, any person for the time being entitled in reversion to the land shall, notwithstanding the existence of the tenancy, have the right to place and maintain such a notice as is mentioned in subsection (3) above, so, however, that no injury is done thereby to the business or occupation of the tenant.

(5)Where a notice erected as mentioned in subsection (3) above is subsequently torn down or defaced, a notice given by the owner of the land to the appropriate council that the way is not dedicated as a highway is, in the absence of proof of a contrary intention, sufficient evidence to negative the intention of the owner of the land to dedicate the way as a highway.

(6)An owner of land may at any time deposit with the appropriate council—

(a)a map of the land on a scale of not less than 6 inches to 1 mile, and

(b)a statement indicating what ways (if any) over the land he admits to have been dedicated as highways;

and, in any case in which such a deposit has been made, statutory declarations made by that owner or by his successors in title and lodged by him or them with the appropriate council at any time—

(i)within [F2ten] years from the date of the deposit, or

(ii)within [F2ten] years from the date on which any previous declaration was last lodged under this section.

to the effect that no additional way (other than any specifically indicated in the declaration) over the land delineated on the said map has been dedicated as a highway since the date of the deposit, or since the date of the lodgment of such previous declaration, as the case may be, are, in the absence of proof of a contrary intention, sufficient evidence to negative the intention of the owner or his successors in title to dedicate any such additional way as a highway.

(7)For the purposes of the foregoing provisions of this section “owner”, in relation to any land, means a person who is for the time being entitled to dispose of the fee simple in the land; and for the purposes of subsections (5) and (6) above “the appropriate council” means the council of the county [F3, metropolitan district] or London borough in which the way (in the case of subsection (5)) or the land (in the case of subsection (6)) is situated or, where the way or land is situated in the City, the Common Council.

[F4(7A)Subsection (7B) applies where the matter bringing the right of the public to use a way into question is an application under section 53(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for an order making modifications so as to show the right on the definitive map and statement.

(7B)The date mentioned in subsection (2) is to be treated as being the date on which the application is made in accordance with paragraph 1 of Schedule 14 to the 1981 Act.]

(8)Nothing in this section affects any incapacity of a corporation or other body or person in possession of land for public or statutory purposes to dedicate a way over that land as a highway if the existence of a highway would be incompatible with those purposes.

(9)Nothing in this section operates to prevent the dedication of a way as a highway being presumed on proof of user for any less period than 20 years, or being presumed or proved in any circumstances in which it might have been presumed or proved immediately before the commencement of this Act.

(10)Nothing in this section or section 32 below affects [F5section 56(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (which provides that a definitive map and statement] are conclusive evidence as to the existence of the highways shown on the map and as to certain particulars contained in the statement),. . . F6

[F7(10A)Nothing in subsection (1A) affects the obligations of the highway authority, or of any other person, as respects the maintenance of a way.]

(11)For the purposes of this section “land” includes land covered with water.

[F8(12)For the purposes of subsection (1A) “mechanically propelled vehicle” does not include a vehicle falling within section 189(1)(c) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (electrically assisted pedal cycle).]

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F2Words in s. 31(6)(i)(ii) substituted (13.2.2004 for E. and 31.5.2005 for W.) by 2000 c. 37, s. 57, Sch. 6 Pt. I para. 3; S.I. 2004/292, art. 2(e) (with art. 3(2)); S.I. 2005/1314, art. 2(b)(ii) (subject to art. 5); S.I. 2005/2459, art. 2(2)(c)(d)

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