Legal Q&A: Can I have this pathway all to myself?

No one knows who owns the pathway that runs along the front doors of all the houses in our street. I have used this path to access my house for 15 years, can I adopt and own it?
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Question: There is a pathway that runs along the front doors of all the houses in our street. No one knows who owns it. I have lived in the street for the past 15 years and, during this time, have used the pathway to access my house. Does this mean I can adopt and own this pathway?
Answer: You would first need to check with the Land Registry to see if the land is registered — if it is, you will be able to establish who is the registered owner of the pathway.
If the land is unregistered, contact your local authority to see if the pathway is an adopted highway.
The local authority is required to keep definitive maps of different types of highway, so should be able to provide you with this information. 
It is possible to acquire land that you have used for a long period of time by adverse possession, if you have had possession and control of that land and held yourself out to the world at large as the owner.
It is, however, very difficult to acquire land by adverse possession when that land is open. If lots of people use this pathway for access, which would appear to be the case, then it is extremely unlikely that you will succeed.
If you are able to show that the pathway should form part of your registered title and that it has been omitted from your title in error, you could ask the Land Registry to rectify your title to include the pathway.

What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter.
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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