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Dismay at play park development - advice PLEASE.

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armstrong31 | 23:43 Tue 17th Oct 2006 | Law
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I bought my house on a new estate, developed by a building consortium in March. Through the centre of the estate is a park which my neighbours and I were advised would be lined with trees and shrubs. There was no indication of anything other than this on the plans we have received. However, in the last few weeks a childrens's play park has been developed. This is now complete - only feet from my garden fence, and is a gang heaven. Firstly, neither myself nor any other residents who bought from the builders were informed of the play area, where do I stand? Secondly - the area is aesthetically ugly, noisy, full of litter - wholly inappropriate in a residential area, does it infringe my rights on this basis? We are all devastated. Needless to say, house values have plummeted. I am in dismay, even the solicitor who did my conveyancing did not advise me of this.

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(Multi-part post):

Head for your local council offices. (If your local authority is not a unitary one, it will be the district council, not the county council that you require).

Ask to speak to someone in the planning department. All planning applications, both past and present, are public documents which can be inspected free of charge. The staff of the planning office will probably be very helpful (they always are at my local offices) and they should be able to find the relevant documents fairly quickly. Check the date on the planning application for the play park. (It might be part of the original estate plans or it could have been added later). Also read any letters of objection or support which were sent to the council. (These are also public documents). Then check the date when planning permission was granted.

Once you've established the relevant dates, you'll be in a much better position to know how to proceed. If the plans were in place (either approved or pending approval) when your solicitor carried out the search for your property, you might be in a position to seek compensation from him/her using the Law Society's grievance procedures. (Note the word 'might' in that sentence. You would have to establish that the proposed play park was close enough to your property for it to show up in a properly conducted search by your solicitor. You would also have to show that it was something which he should have regarded as relevant when preparing his report to you).
Alternatively (or additionally), if the play park was in the plans for the estate (whether approved or not) when the developer sold you the property, you would theoretically have a claim against the developer (and/or the developer's agent) for misrepresentation. However, unless you've got some paperwork showing that there would be no play park, it would be very hard to prove what was said to you.

If the plans for the play park were submitted and approved after you purchased the property, you won't have a leg to stand on unless you can prove that the council did not meet their statutory duties by placing notices in the local press, displaying a summary of the application at (or near to) the proposed site of the play park and giving due consideration to any objections. (If you could show 'abuse of process' you would need to contact the relevant ombudsman)

I've tried to indicate the three possible routes for complainng about (and hopefully resolving) this problem but, if I'm honest, I doubt that you'll be able to establish any sort of improper conduct by either your solicitor or the local authority.

I suspect that the 'blame' lies with whoever sold you the house but, as I've stated, unless you've got some paperwork to back up your statement that you were told untruths, you may find it difficult to seek redress.

All the same, I'm still certain that the local planning department should be your first port of call. Once you've established the relevant dates, you'll be in a better position to assess your position.

Chris
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Buenchico - thankyou so much, thats really helpful. I've checked all the plans I was sent and the park does not feature on any of them. The park is approx 15 feet away from me and is itself about 50 x 25 feet, so quite sizeable. I think my solicitor should have thought this relevant and that it should have been revealed in the search; on checking the documentation relating to the Local Authority Search that I received from him, he states "There are no specific proposals affecting the property. However, I would recommend you make further enquiries of the Local Authority if you are worried about any plans for nearby or adjoining areas". Well I had no concerns, having been verbally advised by the sales office staff that the park was to consist of nothing more than trees, and surely a play area of this size and this close to me should be considered a "specific proposal" by my solicitor. I am also now aware than the play area was planned 2 years before I bought my house. Does this alter your opinion? Either way, many thanks. Annemarie
Thanks for your response, Annemarie.

As I read it, the solicitor's basically statement means "I've checked that the aren't any plans (for example) to demolish the house to make way for a motorway but I'm leaving it up to you to check for anything which might be planned for areas outside of the boundaries of the property". That would seem to 'leave him in the clear' regarding any possible action by you.

You might be able to seek redress from whoever employed the sales office staff. (That might be the developer or an agent). Although the statements regarding the plans for the park were given verbally (which, of course, can be very hard to prove), they were backed up by the plans which you were shown. (i.e. you've got something in print which you could use to support your claims that you were misled).

Forget about challenging the solicitor or the council. It won't get you anywhere. Go to a solicitor (preferably one who'll give you an initial consultation for free) and seek his advice as to whether you can make a claim against the employer of the sales staff.

Chris
Question Author
Will do Chris - Cheers!

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