Interpreting the grant of a right of way

The words granting a right of way are to be understood according to the natural meaning of the words used in the document as a whole and read in the light of the surrounding circumstances.

In St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan Board of Finance v Clark (No 2) ([1975] 1 WLR 468, CA (Eng)) the Diocese had sold land surrounding a church to C. It reserved a right of way across C’s land to get to the church from the public highway. The question was whether this was a right of way on foot only or whether the easement also included access for vehicles. It was held that it was only a pedestrian right of way. The words granting a right of way are to be understood according to the natural meaning of the words used in the document as a whole and read in the light of the surrounding circumstances. Here the physical state of the pathway was such as to indicate that only a pedestrian access was intended.

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