From: Jeff Wall, Michel Dene Road, East Dean
None of us need venture far, before our ordered urban roads and pavements give way to less structured surroundings, where pavements are replaced by soft green verges, some untended and others devotedly cared for frequently by adjoining owners.
Such verges often offer the only option for the pedestrian, short of walking on the carriageway itself and while a far cry from pavements, verges alongside roads, can constitute the same right of way as a pavement and convey with it, a duty of care on those who tend or own them.
Those who place obstructions on them to protect the verges may well do so at their peril.
Typical of such obstruction is the somewhat ubiquitous painted series of white stones, or small rocks, boulders or logs placed as a deterrent to vehicles parking or otherwise damaging the soft verge.
There is a salutary lesson for us all, however, on such actions, freely available on line, of one such instance where a few years ago a householder placed two small, seemingly innocuous, notices on a grassed area outside their home.
It simply requested vehicle owners not to park on the grass.
Someone “stubbed their toe” quite badly on one of the signs, the matter was taken to their county court and the district judge awarded the injured party £2,500 compensation, which along with costs meant the no doubt well-intentioned resident was left needing to outlay the best part of £30,000 in total settlement.
The judge found the notices constituted a public nuisance.
In reaching his conclusion, he ruled ‘a pedestrian does not have to look at their feet when going about their business’.
Escalating this to a hopefully still imaginary scenario, where someone trips on such an obstacle, breaks an arm, leg, or fractures a skull on an adjacent stone, other obstacle or falls before oncoming traffic hardly bears contemplation.
One of the many tragedies of accidents is that so often, they are totally unforeseen, but for me, the placing of such obstacles would always be high on any risk register audit and best avoided totally.