Common law restrictions on commercial and political use of the highway

Barry Hough

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Abstract

The purpose of this article is to examine the uses which the citizen is entitled to make of the public highway. This is an issue of constitutional and cultural significance in a system in which all land is privately owned,1 for public space becomes the arena in which much social, political and commercial activity takes place. Highways are an important public resource offering opportunities not only for travel, but also social interaction, recreation, commerce, and, of course, protest. A walk though a small English town on a summer's afternoon revealed that, in addition to uses connected with the right of free passage, highways in the town were used for the stationing of boards advertising menus at pubs and restaurants; the distribution of leaflets; and the collection funds for charity. A trader operated a burger stand; conversations took place between passers-by; rubbish bins and skips were placed on the highway; cars and heavy goods vehicles were parked on the road-side; and there were buskers, and stalls for street sellers; some shops even displayed goods on the pavement. The law has struggled to accommodate these and many other familiar uses of the highway within the legal principles governing their use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-226
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Civil Liberties
Volume4
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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