Residents fear 'ransom strip' as grass verges auctioned off

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

The Royal Borough has moved to calm fears that a patch of land would be auctioned off and become a ‘ransom strip’.

A ransom strip is a small patch of land, owned privately and situated between the public highway and main access to a nearby property.

On websites such as Rightmove and Network Auctions, notifications have appeared that verges on Bannard Road, Webster Close, Bloomfield Road and Silver Close are up for auction at a guide price of £650.

The auction description says the large verges could ‘provide additional parking for adjacent properties [or] potential as telecommunications aerials.’

Residents were worried that someone would buy the verges and ‘hold them to ransom’ for crossing the verges to access their own houses – and were further anxious about the prospect of masts being built.

However, the Royal Borough has issued an assurance that if anyone buys the land, they will only purchase the top layer of soil and ‘don’t buy the rights to do with the land as they please.’

Responding to a resident’s enquiries, an officer said: “The topsoil can be privately owned [but] this does not extinguish adopted highway rights over this whole area.

“There are many intricacies involved with such a purchase and we find that many buyers don’t do their due diligence and think they have bought more than they have.”

Ward councillor Gurpreet Bhangra (Con, Boyn Hill) said: “The sale of this land is legal and regretfully someone, possibly an agent or the auction house, is driving it as there have been some similar sales across the borough.

“Residents have been made to believe that unless they buy it either individually or as a group it could be built on.”

He added that any planning application to do either of these would be refused by the planning team.

“For clarity the council is not in support of these sales nor is the council selling bits of land to third parties or has any connection to any auction houses,” Cllr Bhangra added.

Cllr David Coppinger, lead member for planning, added:

“The land has very little value as it is dedicated to highway use and any other use would not be allowed.

“Unfortunately the sale details do not explain this. We cannot prevent the land being sold but there is nothing for residents to worry about.”

A representative of Charles Darrow, the auctioneers for this lot and partner of Network Auctions, said:

“Our instructions to prospective buyers of this land are very clear and the legal documents are freely available to download.

“This lot is essentially being sold as seen and we are inviting prospective buyers to make their own enquiries.

“There have been no challenges by any local authority on any of the other similar liquidator lots we have sold or are selling.”

The current owner of the land is a buyer and seller of real estate, Michco 2004 Ltd, which has gone into liquidation.

Consequently, the ‘seller’ is Castle Hill Insolvency. Its legal representatives said: “Any prospective purchaser should always obtain legal advice on the contents of legal packs and what comprises lots being sold. We will not be commenting further.”

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