Public houses and public highways – what is the connection?

I have received a strange enquiry today, asking for “chapter and verse” for saying that – in the 18th and 19th centuries, a public house (as opposed to an inn, tavern, hotel or club) had to front onto a public highway.

The reason the enquiry is relevant is that a community project acquired a site that included a burnt down public house. The project sold off the public house site to a developer, who is now threatening to develop the site in such a way as to block access to the community project behind.

The community project partners have objected, saying the access to the project site (through the public house site) is a public highway. The developer has challenged them to prove it, knowing that the relevant highways authority records have been accidentally destroyed.

So: can anyone come up with an authority for saying that where there is a public house there must be a public highway? I can’t (yet!)

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