Although roads and pavements cannot be guaranteed to be kept safe to use at all times (for example, during exceptionally cold weather, when ice can form quickly), the authority responsible for any public space must take reasonable care to ensure that it is safe to use.
A local authority which failed to take action when its inspector identified a loose paving stone as an ‘immediate or imminent hazard’ found its tardiness told against it in a case involving a man who tripped over the uneven pavement and was seriously injured.
The wobbly paving stone was near a bowling green. The council argued that it was not reasonable for it to be required to maintain the surface in a completely level condition and thus it had complied with its obligations to keep the area reasonably safe.
However, subsequent to the accident, the council’s inspector took the view that the loose paving stone was hazardous and was the sort of defect that should have been rectified as a matter of urgency.
That was enough, ruled the Court, for the local authority to be responsible for the unsafe pavement at the time of the man’s fall. Accordingly, it was liable to pay him damages for his injury.