Retailers have their rights

What she calls '˜excessive street clutter' may well be a '˜real pet hate' of Councillor Anne Forbes, but has the county council the legal right to order the tables and chairs of which she is complaining removed? (Berwick Advertiser, September 8).

Tuesday, 27th September 2016, 8:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 1:38 pm

The answer is probably no for what most people do not realise is that in England, but not in Scotland, none of the airspace above a pavement is usually owned by the highways authority, but is owned by the owner of the freehold whose property adjoins the pavement.

All that the highways authority owns is usually the surface of the pavement and a few inches below the surface to support the pavement.

The purpose of the involvement of the highways authority is to ensure that, for legitimate travel, people can at all seasons of the year pass and re-pass without being stopped.

So the freehold owner of a coffee shop, or his tenant, is probably within his rights to put tables and chairs on the pavement outside his shop; the freehold owner of a clothing shop, or his tenant, is probably within his rights to put rails of clothes on the pavement outside his shop; the freehold owner of a book shop, or his tenant, is probably within his rights to put books on the pavement outside his shop, and so on.

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Only if the items placed outside the shop cause the public to be prevented from passing and re-passing can the council, as highways authority, order the items to be re-positioned, but not removed, and only if the items placed outside the shop display unauthorised advertising material can the council, as the planning authority, order the items be removed.

As one who walks with a walking stick I have sympathy with Coun Forbes’s and Coun McLean’s complaint about tables causing obstructions, but retailers have their rights and this particular right goes back a long way in history and is founded upon property laws.

Each time Coun Forbes passes between the, seemingly annoying to her, outside tables of a coffee shop she is, although she doubtless does not realise it, probably taking a free shortcut courtesy of the owner of the coffee shop whose land she is passing through.

E Sutherland-Loveday

Bridge Street

Berwick-upon-Tweed