HC Deb 03 August 1831 vol 5 cc650-1

Mr. John Wood rose to present a Petition from Manchester against the present state of the law for stopping up Foot-Paths. Parties were frequently put to very considerable expense in prosecuting appeals when the order of the Magistrates was abandoned, and the appellants left to pay the costs, they therefore prayed, that appeals might lie from Justices to Juries, and not, as at present, from Justices in Petty Sessions to Justices at Quarter Sessions.

Mr. Strickland

said, that under the common-law, a foot-path could only be stopped up by an action for trespass, which could be tried by a Judge and Jury. The Statute gave an arbitrary power to two Magistrates to stop any footway by passing an order for that purpose, which could be quashed only by appeal to the Quarter Sessions, and this, which caused a great expense to parties, was tedious and vexatious. Few individuals would trouble themselves to prosecute such appeals, probably to be heard before the very Magistrates who granted the order.

Mr. Wilks

thought the matter of great importance to the health of the people, because foot-ways had been generally stopped-up of late years. Many rich individuals, from the prevailing fashion of desiring to be private, would sacrifice con- siderable sums of money to attain that object. This power of Magistrates should be placed under restraint. There could be no difficulty whatever in Juries deciding such questions.

Mr. Fyshe Palmer

observed, that the desire to encroach was so general, that it was a common thing to hear one Magistrate saying to another, "Come and dine with me, and I shall expect you an hour earlier, as I want to stop up a footway." The public convenience was out of the question. In Berkshire these practices had to his knowledge been carried to a great extent. Several roads had been stopped which were of great public utility, and it was proposed to remedy the evil by the Highways Bill, which would only add to them, for it would do away with the technical and other difficulties, which were at present some restraint, and if it passed, there would be nothing to prevent Magistrates closing up every foot-way in the kingdom.

The Petition laid on the Table.