I live in an end-terrace house, and my neighbour owns the garden to the side and wants to build another house there, right up against my side wall, so that my house becomes mid-terraced.
This will mean my house will fall in value by about 15 per cent and the building works will be a nightmare since we work from home – can I do anything to stop it? JB
Planners are concerned about whether a new development harms a particular area
MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: It would seem strange that the current planning system can allow a neighbour to build right up against your side wall.
However, we spoke to a planning expert and this is apparently the case, as the planning system is not designed to protect house prices or protect from building noise – both of which are concerns you have raised.
That means this won’t automatically get turned down, solely due to your objection on these matters.
Planning permission will still be required and so you need to focus your attention on that and how best to influence the development should consent be granted. Our planning expert gives more details on this below.
Martin Gaine, a chartered town planner, replies: Neighbours’ building work is rarely welcome – it is noisy and disruptive and there is always the risk of damage to your own property or a loss of light or privacy from the final development.
You have extra cause for concern. Your neighbour wants to build a whole extra house as a side extension to yours, turning your end-terrace into a mid-terrace and likely reducing its value. You are right that the building works will be miserable, especially since you work from home.
The problem is that a landowner is generally entitled to develop their own property and there is little in the planning system to protect neighbours’ house prices or to protect them from building noise and hassle.
The Party Wall Act allows neighbours to build up to their boundary, so you should first work out whether your neighbour owns all of the land right up to your side wall.
If the side wall of your house straddles the boundary – i.e. is half owned by you and half by them – they are entitled to use that wall as part of their build.
If your side wall is on your land but sits right next to the boundary, they can build the house right up against it.
The Act requires that they serve a notice on you, and you can employ surveyors at their expense – to ensure their plans won’t damage your property – but you can’t use it to stop the works entirely.
Your neighbour will need planning permission for their development. It is important to make representations on the planning application. Download and read the plans carefully and seek advice from the case officer if there is anything you don’t understand. Seek the support of your local ward councillors if you feel that your concerns are not being heard.
Consider your response carefully. The planners are concerned about whether a new development harms the area – in terms of harming its character and appearance, causing parking problems and so on, and that it does not harm neighbours in terms of a loss of light or privacy. But the impact on the value of your property and the disruption from building works are simply not valid planning considerations.
Don’t focus entirely on stopping the development – if it is going to happen, you want to influence how it happens. You can comment on the design – to ensure it matches the other houses along the terrace – as well as proposed landscaping and the amount of parking, and you can ask for planning conditions to control how the development takes places – limiting building works to particular hours and days, for example.
Even if your neighbour owns the land next to you and they get planning permission, a build like this will not be straightforward.
They will need your co-operation to make a success of it, which may give you some leverage in discussions with them about exactly how the development is carried out, even if you are unable to stop it entirely.