Council forced to pay 1.6m pounds for scrap of land by 'absurd' WWII law

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Taxpayers will have to foot a £1.6 million bill to buy the 0.22 acre plot from a firm of property speculators, even though its true value is just £15,000.

A judge who reluctantly ordered the council to pay the extortionate fee described the law as "utterly deplorable" .

There are now fears of a rash of similar cases in London and other cities which were bombed by the Luftwaffe.

The wrangle centres on a scrap of land measuring roughly 20 yards by 50 which makes up part of a public park called Fred Wells Gardens in Battersea, south west London.

A row of Victorian terraced houses, making up numbers 9 to 15 Orville Road once stood on the site, but they were destroyed by what is thought to have been a V1 flying bomb.

After the war the council cleared the site and added it to the neighbouring park, but it was privately owned.

It was bought for £30,000 in 2001 by an investment firm called Greenweb Ltd, which wanted to build houses there.

When the London Borough of Wandsworth refused planning permission to build on the site, Greenweb served a purchase notice compelling the council to buy the land because it would not allow it to be used for any commercial purpose.

The current market value of the land, as a public open space, was independently set at £15,000, but Greenweb's legal team invoked an obscure clause in the Land Compensation Act 1961 which gives automatic planning permission for the rebuilding of houses destroyed by German bombs.

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