Scottish Construction Now recently reported on possible delays to the Edinburgh Accies development in Stockbridge due to a ransom strip issue.

Developers need to be aware that any assessment of potential sites should include checks on ready and easy access from public roads. The importance of this was illustrated in the case of  Whitecross Limited v Falkirk Council. Whitecross were unable to establish that there was no “ransom strip” between their development site and the public road. It cannot be taken for granted that a public road extends all the way to the edge of a development site. Each case will depend on its own facts and circumstances and the physical extent of the road. When considering whether land forms part of a public road, the court will consider the following:-

  1. What was the legal status of the land in question when the road was adopted?
  2. What was the land used for at that time?
  3. Can the public gain access to it? For what purpose?
  4. Does the land serve a function for road users? For example, a visibility splay.

These are important questions to determine whether a developer may have to negotiate to acquire potentially very expensive access rights over private land.