A block of new luxury flats in Westcliffe-on-Sea in Essex has been standing empty for nine months, in a row over a strip of land only 6 inches wide. Anyone moving into the block, which has been named Nirvana, would have to drive over the strip of land to get to the car park - which has been forbidden.
It's a strange example of a peculiar approach known as a 'ransom strip.'
Planning permission for 45 flats was granted in 2007, and they were finished in February this year. They were designed to be the height of luxury, with high end fixtures and fittings, a gym, outdoor pool, and sea views. It's thought that the penthouses will sell for up to £1 million.
However, they are yet to go on the market because the developers haven't come to an agreement with the owner of the strip of land - which means that anyone buying a flat would be unable to park their car.
RansomThe land is 6 inches wide and 100 yards long, and lies between the flats and the road. It is owned by three people, who held all the land on the site, and when they sold off the rest in the 1980s they held onto this piece. Now they have hired a legal team to argue that they have not granted the developers permission for the residents to drive over it.
The use of these ransom strips is reasonably common. Sometimes they are held onto in order to prevent development, sometimes they are owned on the off-chance that the owner can cash-in at a later date. Sometimes they come about by accident, but either way they can net the owner of the land a small fortune.
In 1999 a ransom strip, taking in the front 16ft of nine front gardens in Riddlesden, Yorkshire, earned each homeowner a share of £1.6 million. The developers wanted to build further down the road, but the council would only grant permission if they widened the road. In widening it, they would have to demolish the front section of each garden, so the residents were in a great position to negotiate over the value of the strip.
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