A right of way over land can only be exercised as a right for lawful purposes – it cannot legitimise conduct that would otherwise be unlawful.
This rather obvious point was in fact central to a recent case that involved two neighbouring landowners who had fallen out with one another.
One of the parties to the dispute had a right of way over land belonging to the other. It was claimed that she used the right to stage a campaign of harassment, including taking videos of her neighbour’s land as she drove by on her tractor.
The landowner who was being harassed applied for an injunction against his neighbour and the County Court ruled that the right of way was to be restricted to the right to pass along the land ‘at reasonable speed’.
An appeal to the Court of Appeal ensued, with the woman claiming that the restriction deprived her of her reasonable right to use the land. She said that it could, for example, prevent her from walking her dog along the land in question.
The Court gave the appeal short shrift, concluding that what constitutes reasonable speed would be dictated by circumstances. Reasonable speed in a car, for example, would not be the same as that when walking.