If your neighbours have obtained planning permission for building works to which you object, you may think that is the end of the matter. However, as one case strikingly showed, with the right legal advice you can still win the day.

A company obtained planning permission to build a large, six-bedroom family home on a vacant plot of land. The project, however, would breach a restrictive covenant in the plot’s title deeds which forbade construction of any substantial buildings in front of a line 50 feet away from its rear boundary. With a view to overcoming that difficulty, the company applied to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) under Section 84 of the Law of Property Act 1925 to either discharge or modify the covenant.

A couple whose home was on adjoining land objected to the application on the basis that the height and bulk of the new house would overshadow their own. The development would harm their views, together with their sense of privacy and seclusion, and would substantially reduce the value of their property. The company retorted that the new house would have little or no effect on the couple’s amenities and enjoyment of their home.

Ruling on the case, the FTT found that, although the new house could be regarded as overbearing, its construction would represent a reasonable, even desirable, use of an empty plot. In refusing the company’s application, however, it ruled that the covenant continued to yield practical benefits of substantial value or advantage to the couple and that it should therefore remain in place, unmodified.

Construction of such a large house, much of which would encroach over the line set by the covenant, would thoroughly spoil the rural outlook from the couple’s garden and change the whole character of their property. If it were built, the couple’s privacy, particularly during the winter months, would depend on the survival and proper maintenance of a hedge over which they had no control. The FTT noted the uncertain future of any such organic barrier.


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