‘Illegal Items placed on verge’

8 Aug

Today I discovered that councils that completely ignore cars left all over the verges then get agitated when local residents use painted rocks, home-made posts or whatever to protect these very same verges. Councils refer to these rocks as ‘items left illegally on the verge’. take for example this page published by Surrey CC entitled ‘‘Protecting Grass Verges from parking‘: “Some residents may take their own measures to prevent parking (often plant-pot shaped concrete blocks or large rocks). Although these can be aesthetically pleasing, it is an offence to place unlawful items on the public highway. If seen or reported, we have the right to request that the items are removed.” Needless to say, having removed these home made defenses the council in all likelihood doesn’t then have the resources to replace them: “All methods require funding from very limited maintenance budgets. Funding may be provided specifically for verge protection but this is not always guaranteed“.

This same page also confirms that “There is no legal right to park on a road, verge or footway.” (so that makes cars ‘illegal objects’ as well doesn’t it?). So… what does the council do about these car shaped illegal objects? err.. they seem to just pretend that they are not objects after all. So there you have it, simple when you know how!

In a curious twist, verges in Surrey can be protected by a clause in one of those odd local Acts of Parliament which should have died out in Victorian times but which are evidently still being created. In this case the ‘Surrey Act 1985  (section 5) which allows the council to ban verge parking simply by placing a sign saying ‘no parking’ on the verge. Not a lot of people know that and I shouldn’t think it is that effective as a result! Not sure why it was necessary to mention horses and cattle in the 1980s? I wonder how much parliamentary time was taken debating if sheep, swine and cattle should or should not be included?

Here is the relevant section of the Surrey Act 1985:
This section applies to any of the following land in a district which, being in, adjoining or accessible from a highway, is maintained in an ornamental condition (whether by mowing or otherwise):—
(a) a grass verge,garden,lawn or green managed by a local authority; or
(b) land laid out as a public garden or used for the purpose of public recreation which is vested in a person other than a local authority.

“A local authority may by notice prohibit, either entirely or at such times or on such days as may be specified in the notice, the doing of any of the following things on land to which this section applies:—
(a) driving, riding or leaving vehicles;
(b) allowing horses or cattle to enter;
(c) using any equipment provided on such land.

“A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes a notice displayed under this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

3 Responses to “‘Illegal Items placed on verge’”

  1. Si August 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    These annoying “rocks” get pulled into the road as well. Recently there is a house near here with a post protecting the corner of a wall (it makes sense) but between it and the wall are a small pile of rocks… well this pile collapsed, got hit by my sister and blew a tyre…

    Thing is – the type of people that leave these rocks out, are the type that will be out cutting the grass and the bushes along their property and near by, I like seeing people maintain the area outside of their house to as it seems a lot of people aren’t so proud these days of where they live.

  2. Graham Martin-Royle August 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    As you say, a car is an “illegal object” so why don’t they take action against them? If they did, then maybe they would find that concerned residents no longer felt the need to protect the verge with other “illegal objects”. As Si says, at least people doing this are taking a bit of pride in their local area.

  3. Sisyphus April 22, 2020 at 7:52 am #

    If you’re using Surrey as an example, then you’re getting several different points, restrictions, and limitations in terms of powers confused, not to mention intention.

    I can tell you first hand that SCC (at least in my area) are in favour of items being placed on the verges, but we cannot state that openly. We litterally do not have the money/resources to repair damaged verges. Items placed there prevent it. However, where there is a large enough complaints one way or the other, or need, then we can allow or enforce one thing or the other as required.

    The issue often is that people treat verges as though it’s an extension of their property and can be ridiculous in what they place there, and it can be dangerous. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, by and large, I ignore normally placed items. It’s beneficial to protecting the verges, and since I can neither have them repaired when damaged, not do we have enough money to install posts (seriously!)

    Items placed on the verges, as per the Highways Act are all unlawful, and the highway authority has a right to remove them but not a duty to do so (Section 149; 1). If they deem it a nuisance (open to interpretation) then they can have it removed but are not required to do so.

    Cars however are a different kettle of fish. Yes, they are still unlawfully “placed” if on a verge but they are not stationary objects in the same way as rocks or posts etc. They are qualitatively different and do not fall under the scope of their powers. For example Surrey have no powers of enforcement over vehicle parking. This is the district councils power. Sometimes this is complicated by the fact that the local/district council can claim that if there is an absence of parking restrictions then they also cannot enforce. In this case it becomes a police matter.

    We also do not have a power of enforcement over obstructions to the highway, but the duty to have them removed. As with a lot of the Highways Act, much of the duties and requirements contradict each other and/or do not work litterally. They usually only actually have a basis in common law, that is what and how things have been challenged successfully in previous court cases.

    I note your use of the phrase “no legal right to park on the highway”. This appears to have been misunderstood. It is a clunky phrase, and I do not believe it should be used on the website. This is just starting a fact that anywhere on the highway (with the exception of designated parking bays) there is no legal right to park a vehicle on the highway. This doesn’t mean that they are not allowed to do so, but that simply in the law there is nothing to say they can do so.

    As such, one could, on a literal reading, claim anything anywhere on the highway is an obstruction: any stationary car, or rocks, post etc. Obviously this wouldn’t work. In common law cars do have the right to park where there are no restrictions. It then comes down to what the highway authority, as the authority, decides is an obstruction. And then it comes down to what they can do within their powers, or if they require another party to take action.

    This is why sometimes cars being on the verges can be ignored. If the road is not capable of having cars parked on the carriageway (it not being wide enough etc) then we have to accept the facts. The verges then get damaged and we have to deal with the complaints of the residents on the road who dont drive about preventing the cars damaging the verges, most of who then use the website and Highways Act to make their point. There is no winning.

    Personally I find it funny that we are to remove an item (car, skip, stones, scaffolding, whatever it may be) and reclaim the cost for doing so. How so, when we have no money? I mean that litterally. It’s just me and a van. How can I remove a skip, or even very large stones? Yes we can “reclaim the costs” but that supposed we have the money to pay someone in the first instance. When you don’t, what then?

    In any case, the definition of what constitutes a nuisance comes down to the highway authority. The law is surprisingly feudal when you look at it, and there is a much greater range of powers they have (rights Vs duties) than are enforced. If they tell you to remove an item and don’t put anything in its place resulting in the verge being damaged then…well tough luck. It is their land, and they can choose to do with it what they want, as long highway rights are not completely impeded. Even then, with a little work they can apply for a change of use and have rights and access rescinded for highway land.

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