These guidance notes refer to instances where trade activities from an owner/occupier or contractor of land or property adjacent to a highway deposits soil, mud or other debris upon a highway. The definition of a public highway includes footways, footpaths and adjacent verges, bridleways as well as the road itself whether adopted or not.
Mud on the road is mainly caused by heavier vehicles such as lorries and tractors leaving sites under development, quarries or agricultural fields; it occurs more frequently when the weather is wet. Recent weather patterns suggest climate change is leading towards wetter autumns and winters. This guidance note would not normally apply to reasonable use of the Highway from residential properties.
Vehicle operators, contractors and farmers who deposit mud on the road are potentially liable for a range of offences. This guidance note is not a complete statement of the law or of your responsibilities and possible liabilities.
A range of powers are available to the Police and the Highways Department, primarily the Highways Act 1980; and the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Highways Act 1980 Section 137 states “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence”. Highways Act 1980 Section 148 “If without lawful authority or excuse a person deposits anything whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway he is guilty of an offence” Highways Act 1980.
Section 149 of the Highways Act states “if anything is deposited on the highway so as to constitute a nuisance/danger the Highway Authority can require the person who put it there to remove it forthwith”. Mud causes skidding and is therefore dangerous and a nuisance.
Highways Act 1980 Section 161 states “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, deposits anything whatsoever on a highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered, that person is guilty of an offence”. Furthermore, the Road Traffic Act 1988 covers situations where a mechanically propelled vehicle is driven dangerously on a road. Driving dangerously can include driving a vehicle in a state that could cause danger to others.
Punishment for these offences ranges from fines to imprisonment.
Civil action can occur where the presence of mud results in personal injury, damage to property, loss or inconvenience. The presence of mud can constitute a public nuisance and loss or injury can result in a claim for negligence.
Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty to look after the health and safety, not only of themselves, their family and employees, but of anyone who may be affected by their working operations. Employees also have the responsibility to themselves and others.
Bradford Council, as Highway Authority, has a duty to assert and protect the rights of road users. Section 149 of the Highways Act 1980 gives the Highways Authority the power to clean the road and recover its expenses from the person causing the obstruction/nuisance.
Whilst this guidance note is also endorsed by West Yorkshire Police, it is not a definitive guide of responsibility and conduct. Compliance with it will not provide exemption from liability or prosecution but may be used by enforcement officers as a checklist when visiting the scene of any accident or site of public complaint.