Construction works on neighbouring properties can make your life a misery but, with the right legal advice, you may be able to do something about them. In a case on point, the High Court came to the aid of a woman whose rental property was deprived of light after builders embarked on a project next door.

The woman did not challenge planning permission that her neighbours had obtained for the construction of a new home on their land. However, as work began, gantries, scaffolding and covered conveyor belts were erected that blocked the light to the first floor of her property. She rented out the house to holidaymakers and was losing business due to the works, which were expected to take 60 weeks.

After instructing solicitors, she sought judicial review of the council’s decision to approve the construction methods being used by the builders. Also, concerned that the project might cause subsidence damage to her property, she challenged the council’s decision to allow her neighbours to excavate and construct the foundations of the new house without requiring them to obtain an expert engineering report and prior approval of the details of the work.

In upholding the woman’s complaints, the Court noted that the council had not consulted neighbours before approving the construction methods. The matters had been delegated to a planning officer, who neither gave reasons for nor kept a written record of his decision. The officer had also failed to draw the council’s attention to the fact that, after the works had begun, a retaining wall between the woman’s property and the new house had collapsed without warning. In the circumstances, the decisions were quashed and the council was directed to reconsider both matters in the light of the Court’s ruling.


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