Alleyways and vehicle access alleyways


There are a number of private ‘rear access alleyways’ and vehicle access alleyways across the city of Southend-on-Sea.

Very few of them are:

  • managed by
  • the responsibility of

Southend-on-Sea City Council.

Many alleyways were built to allow access to the back of the home. This was mainly for coal deliveries, so that it would not be walked through the front of the house.

Ownership of the alleyway can depend on:

  • when the homes were built
  • if they were built with their own side access

At that time, both householders and their neighbours would keep the alleyway clean and clear for each other.

If homes were built on one side of an alleyway with their own side access it is unlikely that they are legally linked to the alleyway. However, there may be a legal ‘right of access’ for nearby homes.

Frequently asked questions

How can I check the ownership of an alleyway?

  • check your house deeds to see if they include the alleyway
  • do an online Land Registry search for a small fee
  • get independent legal advice

Is there always an owner of the land making up the alleyway?

  • some alleyways were built without a registered owner of land
  • sometimes the owner no longer exists

ownership could sit with someone who has bought the land as an investment, to sell

  • during redevelopment projects
  • ownership may sit with homes on both sides of the alley if they were built at the same time and if the alley is used by homes on both sides. There can be an imaginary line splitting the ownership down the middle of the alley

Can I take over the alley land if there is no owner?

Some residents have extended their gardens to take over the alleyway if there is no clear ownership.
We recommend you get your own independent legal advice before thinking about taking over any part of an alleyway.

There may be the legal ‘right of access’ for neighbouring homes to use the land to access the back of their own homes. It does not matter if they do not currently use the right, or if the alley is highly overgrown. The legal right can still exist and could lead to a civil legal dispute.

Doesn’t Southend-on-Sea City Council have to maintain the alleyway?

We have no legal responsibility to tidy the alleyway if it becomes overgrown or has rubbish dumped in it.
Due to the large number of private alleyways, we cannot take ownership of the land or accept responsibility for the upkeep.

Doesn’t Southend-on-Sea City Council maintain some alleys?

Yes, a small number that may have:

  • street lighting
  • traffic signage
  • parking restrictions (double yellow lines)

If these are not present it is most likely a private alleyway.

What if vegetation overgrows from an alleyway into my garden?

All householders have the right to cut back trees or vegetation to the boundary of their home if it enters their land.

There is an old law that says you must offer the timber (pruning’s) to the owner of land the tree grows on.

Timber can be disposed of if:

  • an owner cannot be found
  • the owner does not want the timber

When vegetation from an alleyway grows over the public footpath and an owner for the alleyway cannot be found, we will cut back the vegetation growing onto the public footpath.

My neighbours and I want to tidy the alleyway, will Southend-on-Sea City Council help us?

We support community action to clean and tidy private alleyways.

We can arrange:

  • litter-pickers being borrowed
  • sacks being supplied
  • Veolia to collect the waste from an accessible and agreed location after the clearance
  • anti-fly-tipping signage sometimes if it is a serious reoccurring problem

What happens if something dangerous is found in an alleyway?

When an owner of the land cannot be found, we can sometimes remove:

  • hazardous materials
  • sharps (needles)

only if our contractor can safely access where they are found. Please contact us for advice.

What happens if someone fly-tips in a private alleyway?

By law, it is usually the landowner’s responsibility to clear fly-tipping.
If there is no clear owner, unfortunately we are not responsible for clearing fly-tipping.

If you:

  • witness an incident
  • know the offender
  • can give a witness statement

we may be able to take enforcement action against the fly-tipper.

If you see a vehicle involved and it is safe to do so, photograph the vehicle, getting details of the:

  • number plate
  • the person fly-tipping

We can investigate using the DVLA database.

Can I restrict access to an alleyway at the rear of my property?

Anti-social behaviour can sometimes happen in alleyways.

You should:

  • check if there is any ‘right of access’ for the alleyway
  • discuss with all your neighbours

If everyone agrees, a gate and lock could be fitted by residents to stop access.

We recommend getting legal advice if this is something agreed with neighbouring householders.

Do think about:

  • how to control access - do you give keys for the lock to neighbouring homes?
  • emergency situations where access to the back of a home may be needed, such as if there is a fire

Contact switchboard and out of hours

Telephone: 01702 215000

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