What do we want? Section 63 of the Metropolitan Paving Act 1817 of course

What do we want? Section 63 of the Metropolitan Paving Act 1817 to be restored.

When do we want it? Before the next snow fall of course.

Oh, you don’t know what it says? Well, that’s the bit of legislation which was in force between 1817 and 1891 requiring London householders to clear snow and ice from outside their doors. Turns out this clearing stuff away isn’t silly foreign nonsense but a good Victorian tradition. So I’ll see you out there with shovel, grit and Union Jack top 🙂

Historical pedants may wish to point out that one reason for the provision’s repeal in 1891 is that not enough people were following it. So staying inside and doing nothing is also a good Victorian tradition. But I say boo to you.

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  • and are the infirm exempt?

  • The other thing that would worry me would be the Regulatory Regime :

    Offshovel – the regulatory body for compliance with pavement clearance, using RIPA to covertly monitor use of shovels.

  • This is the law in NYC – every commercial building and every household needs to clean their pavement.

    Faster – better than expecting the Council to do it.

    When I lived there it was no big deal and there was no debate about it.

  • I’m sure everywhere else in the country clears their own paths, just here in London everyone just whines that it isn’t being done even though there’s salt in the yellow box. That’s what the yellow boxes are for is so you can DIY!

  • No grit left here, Percy – more is the pity! I only did 200 rather than 400 as a result…

  • Re: “1817 is not Victorian” – don’t let a bit of twaddlology put you off a good idea. My mum tells me everyone used to clear the pathways in front of their properties in days gone by. I’m sure she doesn’t go back as far as the Tudors in 1891.

  • What about people who live in converted houses or flats? Who is responsible for the clearance of the snow, the bottom flat, all flats, or none?
    What about people on holiday? Will they be issued with a summons, and have to prove to some jobsworth that they were overseas? Or will they have to monitor the news and pay their neighbours to do it for them?
    What about the sick, the old or the disabled?
    What about people who clear the snow from the front of their houses by shoving it in the street or in front of their neighbours’ house?
    Who will enforce compliance?
    Do we really need more nanny state regulations treating us as serfs of the government after 13 years of NuLab? Shouldn’t liberals be at least moderately liberal?

  • I would like to point out to you that under current legislation if you clear the snow from the front of your property and someone falls and becomes injured, then the householder is liable. If you leave the snow or ice there then you are not liable.

  • I would be interested to know which law says that exactly, and on what ground?

  • “I would like to point out to you that under current legislation if you clear the snow from the front of your property and someone falls and becomes injured, then the householder is liable.”

    You mean the front of your house on the public highway (householders have a duty as regards their own property under occupiers liability. And then only in the sense that you are “liable” if you do anything by which you assume a duty of care for others. In actuality the “social utility” aspect of negligence law would provide a pretty strong defence to any such actions which is probably why it’s very rare that someone actually identifies a case where this has happened.

  • the following is from the Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 & current
    41(1A) In particular, a highway authority are under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.

    Together with the following from Section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
    3(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.

    I suggest as the Highways Authority are an employer and by not making a safe paddage along the highway are exposing people not in their employment to danger from the way they are conducting their undertaking

  • Simon Titley 14th Jan '10 - 11:28am

    Tom Dexter obviously didn’t read Mark Park’s earlier posting:

    Hywel and Rankersbo are correct. There have been no cases of householders facing legal action for clearing the path in front of their properties. This is just another one of those “It’s health and safety gone mad!” stories that the Tory press likes to make up.

    Until the 1970s, most people cleared the path in front of their houses without any need for legislation. It was regarded as a perfectly normal social obligation. The fact that most people no longer do so is just one symptom of social atomisation and selfishness in our culture.

    During the current bad weather, I wonder how many of our party’s local Focus teams have had the balls to respond to the “They ought to do something!” moan with a robust reply: “No, you ought to do something – get your f***ing shovel out!”

  • Over the past few days I’ve spent several hours cleareing about 200m of public footpath near my house. This involved removing about 1 inch of packed ice/snow then gritting the cleared surface with grit from the grit bin. I’m currently between jobs so times not an issue. My wife and kids use the path every day. It was dangerously slippy before I did it. It is as good a workout as going to the gym. After fresh snow overnight a quick brush and a bit more salt cleared it again today in 30 minutes work. The council have higher priority roads and paths to deal with so it was either DIY or nothing.

    So sue me. I’m sure I would get any number of neighbours I wanted to testify the path was almost un-usable (my wife fell) beforehand and properly cleared and salted afterwards. It’s not rocket science.

  • @Richard

    I’ve tried to work out whether highway in that act includes the footpath/pavement and I don’t have easy access to any resources which would clarify it. Does anyone know whether it does?

    And of course even if it does your into the “reasonably practicable” bit – there is certainly no requirement to keep every piece of the highway clear of snow and ice

    @monoi – I think the only thing that applies is common law negligence (I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge but I’m not immediately aware of any statute that applies and I’ve not seen references to anything). To be honest if people stopped doing things on the grounds that they could be sued (note not would be found liable) in negligence then there is very little you could do. In reality people cover for that with insurance. You may even have cover for this eventuality in your household insurance.

    It also seems odd that all these people are not clearing the public pavement to avoid the risk of being sued but willing to run the risk of being sued under occupiers liability by not clearing their private access paths and drives.

    I haven’t done anything with the pavement outside my house because it is very narrow and there is nowhere to sweep/shovel the snow to that doesn’t create an equal or greater hazard (and salt water splash off the road has done the job in the end)

    I don’t know whether there is any solution to change the law. It might be sensible to change the law so that “taking reasonable steps to improve the safety of a footpath in extreme weather conditions” was a defence to being sued. However that wouldn’t stop someone bringing an action (and probably not even form the basis for summary judgement) so it would still go to trial.

  • I’m more than happy to clear the path outside my own house. Who is going to force my local council to clear the main roads and footpaths in the centres of town so that people can go about their business in the busy parts of town?

    Try living in Edinburgh, the local council are useless and the main pedestrian footways in the centre of the city have been a disgrace since the snow first fell. We’ve had all sorts of excuses as to why this is the case, and it compares badly against some other places I’ve visited recently e.g. Glasgow.

    Care to guess which party is in charge of Edinburgh these days…….?

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