22 February, 2009


The failure of successive governments to place on the register all public rights of access to our beaches is a ticking time bomb. There are a lot of unregistered public rights of way in Anguilla. Most public roads in Anguilla have never been declared to be public roads. When you drive on a road to the beach in Anguilla, you never know if it is a public or a private road. The public roads have, in many cases, not been registered as such in the Land Registry. Some of the signs, fences, and gates, that indicate a right of way is private are in fact not true. If you make a search in the Land Registry to discover if a particular road is private or public, you will, in most instances, get no assistance at all. It is as if there exist very few public roads in Anguilla, particularly those leading to the beach. Nothing could be further from the truth. They have just never been registered by the government as public roads. It was not for lack of opportunity or of the necessary tools.

There is a procedure in the Anguilla Roads Act to declare public roads.

There is a procedure in the Registered Land Act to register public roads for the avoidance of doubt.

There is a procedure in the Land Acquisition Act for government to take over private land and make it a public road even against the wishes of the landowner, paying compensation as is usual.

There was a procedure that existed in 1974, under the now-abolished Land Adjudication Act, for government to claim the public roads and accesses. Back then, government could have had all existing public rights of way registered under the land adjudication process that was under way at the time. Instead, they took the cowardly way, and ducked their responsibility. The government was afraid that it would become unpopular if it claimed public roads or footpaths over otherwise private land. So, they decided only to claim the most obvious public roads, not those that might be controversial. Ninety percent of the public rights of way in Anguilla were ignored by the registration process. They were left for some future government to sort out.

That is the situation that the public users of the beaches of Anguilla find themselves in now. We are being increasingly barred from accessing the public beaches. All because of the neglect and cowardice of every government back to the time of Ronald Webster. As a result, unnecessary problems are being stored up for future generations of Anguillians.

I feel bad for the children. They will never be able to enjoy the rights that we once had.


  1. Don, I must take issue with this...

    "If you make a search in the Land Registry to discover if a particular road is private or public, you will, in most instances, get no assistance at all."

    I recently did exactly that. I made that request at Land and Surveys and was led to two very congenial men in the back room where they have giant stacks of detailed maps. They pulled out the correct section that was of interest to me, pointed out which were the private roads of access and which one was the public road. They were tremendously helpful.

    I got the feeling that my request was nothing unusual and that they do this all the time.

  2. I am sorry. My language was inexact, and inadvertently misleading. I agree that the staff in the Land Registry are unfailingly polite and helpful. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to make a different point. It is that, section 28 of the Registered Land Act made rights of way what the Act calls "overriding interests". These are not required to be registered on the Land Register for them to be effective and binding. Normally, an interest in land does not exist if it is not registered on a Land Register. Overriding interests can exist without being registered. What they did back in 1974, when all interests in land were being registered, was to leave out rights of way. I suspect they did not want the headache of trying to sort them out at that time. They decided to leave the problem for a later generation to sort out.

    The maps in the back room are very detailed and very helpful. However, they are not title to any interest in land, including rights of way. They are not even evidence of the existence of a right of way. I seem to recall that the maps belong to the Survey Department, and not to the Land Registry. Both departments are housed in the same building.

    So, when I said that "you will get no assistance at all" what I was intending to say is that the Land Registry records, ie, the Land Registers, where every interest in land is required to be registered, often do not contain any reference to a right of way over the land in question. The right of way may exist, but there is no record on the Land Register, and so you will get no assistance by searching the Registers.

    Hope that helps to clarify the point.


  3. Don,
    Is it the norm for the Government of Anguilla to take ones property create a public road without paying compensation to the owners?

  4. Yes, in my experience it is the norm in Anguilla for government to take private property to create or to widen a public road without paying compensation to the owners. It is not legal, but most Anguillians quietly permit themselves to be abused in this way. Very occasionally, a favoured person may be offered compensation, but it is not, in my limited experience, the norm.



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