It sometimes happens that land intended for development needs a new access to the public highway, and that in order to get to the highway from the development land it is necessary to cross a small strip of land which is privately owned.
The term “ransom strip” is often used in this and similar situations. Such situations may arise by accident; but they may also arise deliberately, because landowners may set aside strips of land in order to give themselves the right to profit from further development.
The size of the strip is of no particular significance in itself; but if it has gone unnoticed, and the would-be developer has in fact been crossing it for the necessary period, a prescriptive right of way over it may have arisen.
The land in question will become much more valuable if the necessary access can be arranged over a ransom strip. The owner of the strip is thus in a position to demand a share of the increased value of the development land in return for granting the necessary right of way. But if they are too ambitious the developer may decline to pay, and the owner of the strip will receive nothing.
There is no way of determining precisely what the payment should be. However, the court in one case observed that the “deal must feel right”.
Potential areas of difficulty, where specialised legal advice may be needed, include:
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