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Middle of the road - where is the boundary?

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The issue of locating a property boundary line if your land borders a road, track and/or path can be a difficult one. Our expert property and agricultural lawyers dig deep into the issue.

Boundary line: where the line is drawn

Where your land abuts a private road, path or track, the Land Registry title plans may show that roadway or track as falling outside of your registered title. In some circumstances, that will be the end of the story.

But in other situations, it can be shown that the landowner’s boundary line extends to the middle of the road.

This can be very useful in practice if, for example, you own the land on either side of an unregistered private track.  In those circumstances our experts could look at the potential to include the track within your registered ownership.  However, the principle on which such a claim would be based can be rebutted if there is sufficiently strong evidence to the contrary.

Who owns the land of an adopted highway

Highways maintained at public expense are slightly different, as the airspace above the highway and the surface of the adopted highway vests in the Highways Authority.  However, there is a common misconception that land that forms part of the adopted highway vests in the Highways Authority without any limitations.  That is not so - and there is a whole body of fascinating case law on that very subject.

The vertical extent of the highway is limited, which means the subsoil beneath the adopted highway and verges very often belongs to the owners of the land abutting the highway up to the mid-way point.  If a third party wants to install pipes, cables or other infrastructure below the highway they will need a formal legal right to do so from the owner and, crucially, they may need to pay for that right. 

It is worth noting that some utilities companies have certain statutory rights, which we will look at in more detail in an upcoming article.

Carrying out work on adopted highways

We have seen cases where developers have installed new private services through the verge in the mistaken belief that it formed part of the adopted highway.  Despite obtaining the necessary permissions from the Local Authority and the Highways Department, they failed to obtain the required owner’s consent in relation to the subsoil and this has proved problematic.

As discussed above, in order to obtain a formal legal right the developer will often be required to pay the owner of the subsoil so it can be a valuable asset.  Therefore, both landowners and developers should be mindful of the ownership of the subsoil below an adopted highway to ensure that they don’t fall foul of this particular boundary rule and the limits of the vertical extent of the adopted highway.

If you are unsure about the boundary of your land in relation to a private roadway or the subsoil beneath an adopted highway or verge bordering your land then please do call us and speak to a solicitor within our specialist Agricultural Law Department here at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors.