From motorways to public footpaths, National Parks to AONBs, highways and public rights of access issues can have huge impacts on the lives, properties and profits of very many residents, companies and others. Members of chambers are at the forefront of cases in these areas.
Public law issues frequently arise in this field, as so many decisions regarding highways and public rights of access are made by local authorities, Secretaries of State or government agencies. Examples include a local authority decision to make an order to add a new public footpath, a Secretary of State decision to endorse a development consent order for a new length of motorway and a Natural England decision to designate a new stretch of the King Charles III England Coast Path.
Highways and public rights of access cases often afford an opportunity for representations, objections and legal challenge, whether by statutory right or by way of judicial review claim. It is also very common for these kinds of cases to afford opportunities for oral advocacy at specialist hearings, inquiries or in court. Members of chambers are very well placed to assist clients in all aspects of this work. A public footpath may seem to be a humble way over the ground, but they are highways nonetheless and the law pertaining to them is complex. The process for interpreting and modifying the definitive map and statement for an area can be a very technical exercise.
At the other end of the spectrum, the development consent order process for a new motorway is an enormous exercise and one which often directly impacts very large numbers of residents and businesses. Both kinds of cases generate public law issues of procedure and substance, engaging a wide range of statutory provisions (such as sections of the Highways Act 1980, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Planning Act 2008) and case-law. Public rights of access cases are often just as complex, and contentious, given the invariable conflict between landowner and public. Cases under this heading include village greens cases (such as TW Logistics Ltd v Essex CC  AC 1050, which went to the Supreme Court), Darnall v Dartmoor NPA  Ch 141 (on the claimed right to wild camp) and R (Day) v Shropshire Council  2 WLR 599 (on land subject to a statutory trust for the benefit of the public, which also went to the Supreme Court). Members of chambers appeared in all three of these cases.