Obstruction of Public Pavements - is it a criminal offence?

On our regular morning walk today my wife and I encountered a pile of bricks which was slap bang in the middle of the pavement outside a house having some building work done.
Around this pile of bricks there were a number of other loose bricks strewn randomly across the pavement.

I was appalled by this and the safety implications, especially for people with mobility issues using either walking aids or buggies. I telephoned 999 to report it to the police when we got home as I beieved it to be an immediate danger to life and limb. I was told in no uncertain terms by a rather snotty woman that the police would not attend and that I shouldn’t be calling 999 for a ‘non-emergency’. When I pointed out that IMO it was an emergency and constituted an immediate danger of injury she beacame quite rude. She suggested I contact the local coucil or 101 if I was concerned.

I 'phoned 101 and was told that it wasn’t a criminal offence to block the pavement and it was not a police matter and there was nothing they could do.

However doing some research on-line I found this:

It is a criminal offence, under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, to obstruct the whole or part of the width of a public path .

Can anyone with greater knowledge or experience here shed any light on this seemingly nonsensical contradiction?

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Just shows that today’s Police Staff know little about the law however the response to your 999 call was appropriate albeit better in a non rude manner.

The above offence refers to highway, which includes pavements.

What they should of said was that it is an offence but that they would not likely prosecute, which is more realistic and understandable.

The LA or the HSE would probably be in a better position to take action of it was deemed proportionate.

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I’m having difficulty understanding why it would be an emergency :rotating_light:


Perhaps if you were an elderly person with walking difficulties and were unfortunate enough to fall over it and suffer serious injury as a result then you might take rather a different view. Of course then it would be a definite emergency requiring immediate action to remove it - but rather too late for the unfortunate victim.

I suggest you offer to work with the Police for a 10 hour shift then.

Also, did you speak to anyone doing the building work or the house owner about the obstruction?

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The police are there to enforce the law. I don’t expect to be given incorrect information from them or for them to dodge their responsibilities. No excuses for them not going their jobs. If they don’t like it then get a job elsewhere.


Nobody around. If there was I would have said something.

I agree re the incorrect advice, as I stated above.
They are not dodging their responsibilities, they are prioritising the endless calls they get.
A pile of bricks is hardly going to trump a fatal RTC or a murder or rape.

Anyway your Q had been answered, best not let this morph into a police bashing exercise, you’re better than that I’m sure.


It’s not a question of ‘police bashing’ at all. I have served as a magistrate and I know full well the sort of difficulties faced by the police and have always been supportive of them. It’s very disappointing to receive this sort of dismissve response from them. A crime is a crime and should be treated as such.

No wonder there is so much crime in the UK if this sort of attitude is typical. I will think twice in future about bothering to report anything untoward as there is clearly little interest from the people paid and trusted to enforce the law if it’s anything other than mega serious.

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The world in which we now live PJL.
Increased demands, expectations to deal with more Social ills year on year, less money and staff.


I was told once by a building materials delivery company dropping a few large sacks etc that it was mine or my builders responsibility to keep the pavement clear and any injuries caused I would either be liable through my household insurance or my builder public liability insurance.
I asked police for advise and they just said do you expect it to be there for long. :thinking:
Gone in a few hours

How about informing the home owner of the obstruction who could kindly ask their builders to move the bricks? We have building works going on across the road and they are for ever blocking the pavement but we just ask them direct and they oblige but a few days later they do it again!!! It’s part of life and they will eventually be finished!

I don’t see this as life threatening and I certainly wouldn’t want to waste the police force valuable time of such a petty matter when they struggle enough with serious crime.


Exactly. So what’s the point of asking them?

I wonder if you would take the same view if an elderly relative or friend of yours suffered injury and died as a result of this?

Of course there is far more serious crime going on. Does that now mean that ‘petty crime’ is acceptable? If someone lifted your hi-fi system would you class that as important, or would you happily dismiss it as ‘petty theft’ and be happy for the police to turn a blind eye?

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Strictly speaking any changes of use to public areas in footways or parking obstructions should be prior notified & agreed by the local authorities Building Control Registration Officer as part of the Building Control Application regulations.

Getting it resolved (bricks removed) is another matter.
My first line would be the Building Control Officer.

My angst would be directed at the builders or homeowner, not the Police.


If it’s a criminal offence, and information on-line suggests that indeed it is, then the first port of call must be the police. That, at least as I understand it, is what they are there for.


Morally, no, but realistically in todays situation, Im afraid yes.

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It’s this sort of attitude that merely adds fuel to the fire in the fight against criminality. Don’t you think the criminals know this too?


Its only an offence if the potential of pavement blocking has not been agreed to under the Building Control regulations.
Even so, if the BC application & its regulations have not been adherded to its a civil matter, not criminal.

Just to be clear, are you saying that the above is incorrect?