Highway Authority Duty

December 11th, 2015 by James Goudie KC

In Rollinson v Dudley MBC [2015] EWHC 3330 (QB) Haddon-Care J held that local highway authorities do not have a duty under Section 41(1) of the Highways Act 1980 to ensure that its roads, pavements and footpaths are clear of moss, algae, lichen or similar vegetation.  The Judge summarised the relevant principles as follows (paragraph 24): (1) the Section 41(1) duty, to maintain the highway, is properly to be understood as being to “repair” and “keep in repair” the highway; (2) the duty does not include a duty to remove surface-lying material, accretions, obstructions or spillages, whether or not dangerous; and (3) the duty does include a duty to keep the drains and substructure of the highway clear and in good repair.  The Judge held (paragraph 27) that none of those applicable principles or criteria applied in the case before him: (1) moss or algae is, by its nature, to be regarded as transient rather than permanent; (2) the presence of moss or algae cannot be said to amount to, or comprise, material “disturbance or damage” to a road, pavement or pathway or the surface thereof; and (3) moss or algae cannot be said to have become part of the “fabric” of the road, pavement or pathway.

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