What is a “road”?

This definition, to be found in section 192(1) of  the Road Traffic Act 1988, is an important one.  It includes highways and “any other road to which the public has access”.  Whether something is a “road” in this sense determines whether various motoring-related offences apply, and also whether local authorities are able to exercise particular powers.  But what does the quoted phrase mean?  In a case in 2020 [1], a High Court judge held that it was essentially a question of whether the public had implied permission to use the road.  But more recently, in  another case [2], a different High Court judge has concluded that the key question was whether the public actually had access, without removing a physical barrier, or defying an express or implied prohibition on using the road.  The latter view will probably prevail, because the remarks in the first case were not strictly relevant to that judge’s decision.

[1] R (Pereira) v Enforcement and Traffic Adjudicators [2020] EWHC 811 (Admin) [2020] 4 WLR 134.

[2] Bowen v Isle of Wight Council [2021] EWHC 254 Ch; [2022] 1 WLR 1802.