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Planning problem: conservatory

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Phantaxus | 15:05 Sat 17th Apr 2004 | Home & Garden
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A friends neighbour put in plans for a conservatory. My friend saw the plans at the planning department but saw no reason to object. But what is now rapidly being constructed next door is more akin to an extension than a conservatory. With part of the construction obstructing light into their first floor bedroom window. What can they do now? Can they do anything to halt construction imediately? I have told them to get copies of the original plans and to take photos of what is going up. They are planning on seeing a solicitor. Both properties are council owned, so could they complain that their house is now worth less than it was and they should pay less rent?

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Once planning permission is ganted it is non-cancellable and irreversible, so do not waste time on what went before. Your friend should immediately visit the Council offices and take notes and sketches of what was approved (copies of drawings not being available through copyright) and then check carefully on site for conformity. If there is non-conformity then inform the Council's Enforcement Officer with a request for an immediate Notice to Cease. Do not confuse right to light with right to a view. There is no right to a view. However, where a window has been receiving light for 20 years or more then it is called Ancient Lights and no building can be so high or close so as to deprive the window of substantial light. Substantial is a hard word to define. There is no right to all of the light, but there is a right not to have windows so darkened that it becomes a nuisance. Varying circumstances have weight, what may be regarded as infringement in the country may not be so in town. A fair working rule is to visualise an upwards 45 degree angle from the centre of the window - buildings below are acceptable, buildings above are not. But this not absolute, only a start. If there is substantial blockage your friend must go to the County Court for an immediate injunction to cease building - do not delay even a day, to sit on your rights is to lose them Two hearings about a week apart, solicitor and counsel necessary, cost about �5000. If the other side elect for a full hearing this will be 9-12 months away, minimum cost �20000, if successful about 50% returned, if not will have to pay other sides costs of about the same + probably substantial costs for delay. I doubt very much that values will be affected whatever the outcome, and it is most unlikely that there will be a reduction in rent.
Just to complete. Firstly, I am not absolutely certain of the mechanism whereby a council tenant can add his own conservatory to a council owned property, and your friend should talk this over with the Council Housing (Tenants) Manager. Secondly, if the 20 year period for Ancient Lights is not met, then your friend must progress the matter as a Private Nuisance. Thirdly, very importantly your friend must check whether the tenancy held is sufficient interest in the land to maintain an action - a person who does not have possession, control or a proprietary interest in the land cannot sue. Fourthly, it is possible that the Council have authorised a Private Nuisance against your friend, and it is in their direction your friend must look. Lastly, your friend must be very, very sure that he is not being abnormally sensitive as he cannot successfully complain about a nuisance that would not trouble an individual of normal susceptibilities.
A minor extra, but may be useful: If the development is different to the plans that were submitted, then a call to the council will result in an almost immediate "cease work" order until it can be examined by a member of the planning people. If they deem it to be different then the neighbour will be forced to take down all that has been built already and will have to either build as per the plans submitted or submit again for the "altered" building.
That's right, my understanding is that if someone obtains planning permission for something else, but then tries to be smart and builds something else (bigger), the Council can stop them, but someone (e.g. neighbour) must report them first.

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Planning problem: conservatory

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