When machinery is too wide for a right of way

A recent Court of Appeal case has highlighted potential problems for farmers with a right of way along a farm track which is too narrow for larger modern machinery, writes Michael Tatters

The implications of this case could be significant, as a farmer with a right of way (“the dominant owner”) to a field owned by another landowner (the “servient owner”) may be forbidden from accessing his field with larger machinery.

Michael Tatters
Thrings Solicitors

This may prevent the farmer maximising return from his or her field.

The case: Oliver v Symons [2012]

Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed the dominant owner’s claim that the right of way included a right to go beyond the confines of the track with larger vehicles.

The court decided that the occasional use of verge space was reasonable and quite normal to exercise the right of way, however greater allowance for swing space and use of land beyond the boundaries of the track was not allowed.

This was based on the specific wording of the grant of the right of way, which restricted use to the width of the track.

This case is a useful reminder of how a right of way granted by an easement may be construed strictly by a court. It cannot be taken for granted that a right of way will automatically give you freedom to navigate beyond its boundaries without the landowner’s permission.

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