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Encroachments on the Highways (S373d: 1885)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page three of The West Surrey Times and Guildford Gazette (Guildford) issue of 24 January 1885. Related to S370ab, S371a, S373b, and S373c. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S373D.htm

To the Editor of 'The West Surrey Times.'

     Sir,--I have received a communication from the Clerk to the Godalming Highway District, giving me the decision of the Board as to the encroachment opposite Lower Vann Farm, which is as follows: 'That the Board having made full inquiry into the alleged encroachment is not satisfied as to there having been any dedication of the strips in question to the use of the public.'

     Allow me again to point out that this statement ignores and sets at naught the legal decision of Baron Martin, as affirmed by the Court of Appeal, which was, that 'the right of passage on such highway, prima facie, AND UNLESS THERE IS EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, extends to the whole space between the fences.' The law declares that the Highway Board, as representing the public, are in possession of the whole highway between the fences. No evidence of this is required by the law; it is to be taken prima facie. Any other claimant is to prove his right as against the public by evidence to the contrary. The Godalming Highway Board, however, declares by its decision that this is not the law, that the public have to prove their right, and that the roadside slips are prima facie private property.

     Again I ask, what is the good of our having judges and Courts of Appeal, and plain statements deciding what the law is as to the public rights, if these rights are to be ignored and the public highways to be turned into private property with the connivance and consent of those who are elected to defend them?

     Major Tredcroft's important speech at the Surrey Quarter Sessions, strongly supported as he was by Mr. Eastwood and others, should be read by all who are interested in this matter; and I particularly commend to your readers this important piece of advice from the Major's speech: 'Let this be a test question at the next election of Waywardens in March--"Will you, or will you not, vote at your Highway Board for the maintenance of public rights of way along the grass strips?"'

     I myself have no interest whatever in this question, but as one of the public I have done what I can to protest against what I consider a barefaced robbery; and I now leave the matter in the hands of the ratepayers, who, if they allow it to pass unnoticed, must bear the penalty of having every strip of greensward along our country roads successively taken away from them.

     I am, Sir, yours truly,

Alfred R. Wallace.
Godalming, January 15th, 1885.

     [We willingly insert Mr. Wallace's letter, but we wish he would peruse the decision in the case of Easten v. Richmond Highway Board, Law Reports, Queen's Bench, vol. vii., p. 69. If he will do so, we will leave him and the legal advisers of the Godalming Highway Board to fight out the law of the question between them, only premising that we believe the latter to be right in this particular case. We deprecate the practice of enclosing strips as much as our correspondent--Ed. W. S. T.]

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