Imagine waking up, wandering downstairs and opening the curtains of your living room to a startling new view. Now, if your house had miraculously relocated to the Bahamas overnight, you would be thrilled. However, if you are as unfortunate as Paul and Wendy Collins, who awoke to a brand new 6ft fence barricading them into their house, you would understandably be distraught.
Mr and Mrs Collins have lived in their 4 bedroom, detached house in Brownhills for 26 years and were mortified when they saw workmen placing a 6ft fence around it, just 8 inches from their front gate. They were even more distressed when the workmen refused to stop and barricaded them and their Fiat Stilo in.
The incident, however, was not entirely unexpected. The row had been brewing for some time, the result of an ongoing dispute with a property firm formed by the owners of 12 apartments in a converted flour mill adjacent to the property.
Mrs Collins’ version of events suggest that, despite having a rear driveway to the property, she paid Sadlers Mill – the property firm – a nominal rent to park two vehicles in spaces they owned next to the house. According to Mrs Collins, in an unrelated event, a car then crashed into her garden wall, partly demolishing it. The demolished wall was then used as access to her garden where she would park a car.
However, Sadlers Mill and its directors believe that Mr and Mrs Collins demolished part of the wall themselves, with the intention of using it as access to park a third car. They also claim that the unsightly mess was affecting the value of the apartments.
Because of this, Sadlers Mill asked them to tidy up the front of their property and even offered to pay for the repair of the damaged wall, providing that the Collins’ signed over the ownership of it. The company warned that failure to rectify the damage would leave them with no choice but to erect the fence.
Michael Nicholls, one of the property firm’s directors explains:
‘We have tried to be amicable and neighbourly, but Mr and Mrs Collins would accept no compromise. It’s a shame.’
An enforcement officer was sent to the house after the police were called, but Mrs Collins states:
“He said planning permission wasn’t needed and dismissed it as a neighbour dispute.”
And unfortunately for the Collins household, Walsall Council were also unable to help saying:
“The fence was erected under permitted development rights . . . The local planning authority cannot intervene.”
Unfortunately, this is just one of a number of different disputes between neighbours and an example of how, at times, planning regulations and controls can be of little significance.
If you have any queries with regards to planning, or perhaps you find yourself embroiled in a neighbour dispute at present, do not hesitate to contact your local chartered surveyor. They will be able to provide professional, no obligations advice.
BT / SRJ 01.10.14