Ransom Strips

Many people will be aware of the financial, and practical, difficulties so called “ransom strips” can cause.

“Ransom strips” are usually strips of land which separate a public road from a proposed development or property. They are named ransom strips as the ownership, and therefore control, of these areas is outwith the control of the owner of the adjacent development or property. If these strips do not form part of the public road there may be landowners who are entitled to charge a considerable premium or “ransom” to lay services within, or construct a roadway across, these strips of land.

There has been a very important Court ruling recently regarding these ransom strips, which provides some clarification on this matter. The ruling clarifies what is included in a “public road” for the purposes of Section 1 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 and also the rights of the owners of the land which forms part of the public road.

The circumstances of the case in question relate to work required to improve a junction from a main road into a new business development over the adjoining verge. Originally this was opposed on the basis that, although the verge in question was part of the public road, the consent of the owner had not been obtained. The presiding judge held that the land was part of the public road and no such consent was required. The developers had no formal right of access from the landowner across the verge in question and the landowner therefore believed he could prevent the developer from using it and from making any improvements. The judge’s decision makes it clear that, as there was a public right of passage across the verge in question, the local authority were entitled to permit the improvement works without any further consent from the landowner and therefore no ransom payment could be demanded.

To summarise the ruling the judge reaffirmed that, where a verge is part of a public road, the consent of the owner of the verge is not required for improvement works to permit new development. This ruling really just reinforces the status quo position and will no doubt be a relief to many developers. That said many land owners are likely to be disappointed as they will see the ruling as a bar to being able to maximise the value of their land and realise what could be a substantial “ransom” sum.

Clearly, this case will have implications for future developments. As case law develops on this area we will provide further updates.

For more information please contact Corra Irwin or Katrina Ashbolt or telephone us on 01463 239393.

Disclaimer: The information in this publication is based on the current understanding of the law. It has been produced for information purposes only. Professional advice should always be sought before taking any action.
Macleod & MacCallum cannot take any responsibility for loss incurred through acting or failing to act on the basis of anything contained in this publication

July 10, 2014