Greenwich Council is unable to sell or convert disused public toilets at the Royal Standard in Blackheath – because it cannot confirm it owns the facility.
The underground loos at the Standard have been closed for about a decade, but legal problems mean it can’t reopen them or do something new with them.
Other underground toilets in London have been converted into bars, retail outlets or even in the case of one Lambeth Council lavatory at Crystal Palace, a home.
But according to a written answer given to Blackheath Westcombe Conservative councillor Geoff Brighty at Wednesday’s Greenwich Council meeting, the site is deemed to be “unregistered” and the council would risk legal action if any owner were to come forward.
The issue has been sending council legal chiefs round the bend – but they are now working out how they can flush away any chance of problems if they do decide to work on the site.
“The toilets referred to are not owned by the council and are classed as ‘unregistered’ by the Land Registry,” environment cabinet member Jackie Smith said in the written response.
“The council recently applied to the Land Registry to secure ownership however the Land Registry rejected the application on the basis that the council could not sufficiently evidence ownership.”
Greenwich is now investigating the cost of getting insurance against the event of a possible owner coming forward and objecting to it working on the site.
“Depending on the cost of such a title indemnity insurance, if the Council were to decide to reuse or redevelop the site knowing that if a third party then made a claim for title of the site from the Land Registry and was successful the Council’s investment would be insured from losses,” Smith said.