Worried a public right of way might affect your property?
Order your highway search today, for a fixed fee of £149 INC VAT.

This search identifies highways impacting your property, as well as who's responsible for maintaining them.

Highway Search

(Last Updated: 18/05/2023)
4 min read
    Key Takeaways
  • A highway is a road of a defined route, which the public has unlimited access to. Public footpaths, for example, are considered highways.
  • A highway search will investigate any roads surrounding your property which may be affected by public rights of way.
  • Although they're usually maintained by the relevant local authority, this responsibility may fall on your shoulders. This search aims to clarify if you'll be impacted.
  • The highway search cost is £149 INC VAT.

In this context, a highway refers to a road, sometimes privately owned, of a defined route, which the public has the right to use for access at any time they choose. This means that there might be a public right of way over your privately owned highway.

These highways can be simple rough tracks, with no surfacing material on top, but the term is used for any road which the public can use. Officially, there are three types:

    Footpath - which gives access to pedestrians
    Bridleway - which gives access to pedestrians, horse riders or cyclists
    Carriageway - which gives access to pedestrians and vehicles

What is a highway search?

A highway search will reveal what highways are present in the near vicinity of your property, as well as who is responsible for maintaining them. Some roads are maintained at public expense, but other times, if the highway passes through your private land, the responsibility for its upkeep might fall on your shoulders.

A highway can be adopted - when it is maintained at public expense - or unadopted - when the responsibility of its maintenance falls on the private owner.

Any interference or obstruction of the public's right to access a highway is prohibited. However, if your public highway search reveals a footpath or other road on your property, you might be able to remove or divert it by negotiating with the relevant local authority. Under the Highways Act 1980, the local authority can adopt a private road and turn it public, although this is no longer common practice.

How do you find out if a road is a public highway?

If you're buying a house using a mortgage, your lender will make it a condition for you to get the main conveyancing searches. Should any potential risk be flagged during the enquiries stage, you might be forced to get additional searches.

The Local Authority Search will reveal the presence of highways maintained at public expense, but it will not show their full extent, nor will it reveal any access issues affecting your property. For a more accurate investigation, or if the Local Authority Search reveals any potential risks, we recommend getting a highway search.

As a cash buyer, however, you can choose what searches to order. A title plan will not always uncover all the potential risks and to complicate matters more, it will only display the general boundary, not the legal one. A highway search will clearly define if a road on your property is a highway, as well as who's responsible for maintaining it.

£149 INC VAT

What is covered by a Highway Search?
A public highway search will vary depending on the relevant local authority. Generally, the report aims to cover the following:
  • Highway Search Map

  • Who is responsible for their maintenance?

Depending on the relevant authority or the cost of your search, you can also ask the following questions:
  • Are there any public rights of way in place that will affect the property?

  • Are there any access issues affecting the property?

  • Are there any future development plans which may affect the roads surrounding the property?

Frequently Asked Questions
Laura Cristian - Digital Marketing Assistant - Meet the team - SAM Conveyancing
Written by:
Laura has a talent for data analysis and fact-finding. She is an advertising graduate with a broad range of skills in the web marketing field within conveyancing sector. She works closely with our panel of solicitors and surveyors to understand our clients' needs and challenges and to write the most valuable content for you.
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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