Barnsley MBC has been criticised by an ombudsman for trying to charge a resident £7,000 for a triangle of land just seven inches wide.
Local Government Ombudsman Anne Seex has recommended the council hand over the land for nothing and pay the complainant £1,500 plus legal costs.
Ms Seex said the council originally agreed to sell the land to ‘Ms J’ for £2,950 as a path adjacent to her home.
But an officer decided an extension she was building encroached on the land, which should be re-valued, increasing the price to £7,000.
Ms Seex’s report said Ms J “justifiably feels a strong sense of outrage that the council should have exploited her situation to try to obtain what she describes as an ‘extortionate’ price”.
She added that it was inconceivable that the council could have obtained any value for the land from anyone else, and said Barnsley’s suggestion that Ms J had inflicted delay on herself by complaining to the ombudsman was “reprehensible”.
Ms Seex said Barnsley had disagreed with her draft report and sought legal advice but that its district valuer had then condemned its valuation as incorrect.
Borough secretary Andrew Frosdick said Barnsley accepted some compensation should be paid to Ms J, but added: “There are other aspects of the report that the council does not necessarily accept”.