We moved into our bungalow six weeks ago; though we purchased the house just after Christmas 2012. It took until April to get the keys due to the sellers being deceased with no relatives. Once we had the keys we applied for planning permission to build a new extension, and a garage extension. An objection was lodged by one of our side neighbors against the Garage, generally it was okay, and we could see their reasoning. You can see the objection via the following link:
We asked the builders to reduce the width of the garage by a foot. we'd calculated that what remained at the side on our side of the fence should be sufficient to complete the work and allow us to maintain the gutters.
As the building work progressed our builder said he wasn't able to gain access to the side of the garage to fit the soffits etc and asked us to contact the neighbors to see if they would allow him access to the rear of their garden so as to complete the work. He tried to contact them several times but, despite the neighbors being in the house, they wouldn't answer the door. We also tried to contact them, but they refused to answer the door each time we tried to talk to them. We ended up sending a note through their letter box virtually pleading with them to allow us to complete the work. In the mean time we'd consulted our deeds and it appeared that the garden hedge was actually ours and not the neighbors, who had said in their objection that the hedge was theirs. Also it appeared that our front garden was actually a metre short. After a few weeks we'd not heard anything from our neighbors (by this time we'd been trying to contact them for over 2 months), so decided to write another note again asking for permission for our builders to complete their work using access into the back of their garden. We pointed out that the hedge that they were claiming was actually on our side of a wire mesh fence that was embedded within the holly hedge, so if they wouldn't allow access we would have to remove at least four or five of the holly tree's next to and down the side of the garage so that the builders could finish the work. There would be enough room, just about, if we removed the hedge at this point. That said, we didn't want to do this, but felt we had been forced to because of our neighbors continued silence.
The objection that they had raised had caused the planning office to put a condition on our planning application. Basically any tree, bush or hedge in our garden (which was just under a third of an acre and held a large stock of these) was not to be cut back, trimmed or felled over the next five year period without first seeking permission from the council (at a cost of around £80 per application). We appealed this decision and won the appeal.
To the present...................
We've still not sorted out the problem. Last week we sent a final note to the neighbors saying that if they didn't reply to our note by the end of the week we would have no alternative but to cut some of the hedge on our side of the boundary. Amazingly we received a letter from the daughter of the neighbors which said the following:
I am writing to you on behalf of my parents to request that you stop contacting them about gaining access to your extension to finish off the building works and making threats about removing the hedge.
As you are aware, my parents submitted their concerns to the planning department some months ago and subsequently instructed a solicitor to act on their behalf on this matter. The solicitor has written to you, but according to the solicitor you have not responded to him and seem intent on using back door and underhand methods to pursue your building works.
My mother is unwell and is waiting for an operation and the whole situation has caused my parents no end of stress and is seriously affecting their health. as you can appreciate, my parents have lived in the house for 42 years and the house and garden is very precious to them an to the whole family.
If you would like to pass on my telephone number to your builder, i will make arrangements for the builder to gain access to your extension from my parent's land to complete the required building works and there will be no need to remove any part of the hedge.
I hope that this draws a line under the matter and request that you have no further contact with my parents in future.
As far as we knew we had never received any correspondence from their solicitor and thought it odd that they were accusing us of underhand methods etc. I emailed a copy of the letter to my builder. Then the following day (Saturday just gone) we received a letter from the neighbors solicitor, who said that they had send a letter two months ago. at that time the house was a building site. The original letter box, which had goine into the garage had been demolished and the other letterbox had been blocked up by the previous occupants. we were still living in our old house at the time and never saw this letter. Most letters we did find had been trampled into the dirt and mixed concrete of the building site.
The solicitor basically said we were not allowed to contact the neighbors, were not allowed on their land and that the neighbors were claiming ownership of the holly hedge. Thankfully they also included a copy of the neighbors deeds which showed the boundary lines with measurements. We checked these on Google Earth and made physical measurements to ensure that the Google earth measurements were accurate (their was a discrepancy of a centimeter).
The measurements showed that our neighbors who it had said in the deeds were responsible for maintaining the boundary had basically taken a meter and a half of our land not including the holly hedge which was placed on our side of the wire fence.
We have sent a lon letter to their solicitor firstly explaining that we had never received their first letter and then explaining that their claim to our holly hege was unfounded. We pointed out the measurements to them and are now awaiting a reply from them.
Then a letter was posted through our letter box (nor reinstated) from our actual neighbors which goes as follows:
My I ask you to refrain from sending your letters to us regarding your extension work. My wife is in bad health and is awaiting an operation which at 74 is somewhat daunting. The threatening manner of your letters is adding to the strain, under which we are both struggling and not helping her condition.
I appreciate that you are concerned to have your garage finish don our boundary so that the building inspectors can pass the work. all we are prepared to do is to allow access to your builder from our side so as to minimize any disruption. Will you ask your builder to drop his telephone number through our front door so that we can ring him to establish contact and arrange to give him access to our back garden.
If in future you need to contact us, please do not come onto our propery again; use the Royal Mail.
Looking back over forty years, when we bought our house , we accepted the plot with its clearly defined boundaries, never imagining that anybody could challenge them as you have done. we appeared to have a completely rectangular plot, which we readily accepted and never thought that anybody could suggest anything was wrong. My difficulty is that I cannot follow your long winded justification of your claims without reference to a plan. with my working experience... briefly as an electrical engineer in electronics, as a college lecturer and finally a University Lecturer, i am completely baffled by your ramblings
He then signs himself off with his degrees (B.Sc (Lond), M.Sc (UMIST)
Unfortunately I don't have copies of the letters my wife send to the neighbors, but I can assure you they were not long winded and were set out very succinctly (not like this post I'm making).
We really didn't want to take this any further; however, my wife takes objection to the neighbors claiming the holly hedge which is clearly on our side of a wire mesh fence (which is also on our side of an older but not complete boundary), This original boundary is demarcated by a line of very mature trees and some bushes, but does not make a continuous hedge/boundary. That line measures exactly the length of the neighbors property according to the deeds their solicitor sent us. The extra metre and a half they are claiming includes the wire mesh fence and the less mature holly hedge. incidentally, the wire mesh fence can be found on all sides of our property, but only on the one side of the neighbors property.
Are we being unreasonable?
We would never have contested the amount of garden that we have lost. All we were bothered about was getting the garage finished. As it stands at the moment, the side facing the neighbors is exposed at the roof edge where plastic soffits etc need to be added. This will lead to the garage roof spurs rotting as they get continually wet due to the weather. The fact that it took two months for them to actually acknowledge us and the comments they made in their letters has made us feel that we should tgo ahead and try and legally claim the land they have basically stolen.
We have been told by other neighbors that the husband is unreasonable to all around him and is extremely unfriendly. Down the side of the wire mesh fence next to our extension he has placed a large pile of bricks right against the wore mesh fence causing it to buckle outwards (bulging further into our space and has broken the fence as well.
It appears to us that the previous occupants were bullied into putting the wore mesh fence up, despite the neighbors having ultimate responsibility. further they placed the fence well onto their own garden, which the neighbor now is trying to claim as his own.
In his original objection (which I've referenced to above), he stated that the previous occupants had ripped down a hedge on the boundary and had caused a lot of upset with the neighbors other neighbors (two old ladies), who also lies along our border. Photographs were taken before and after the previous occupants built their own extensive back in the 70's (which we have further extended into a garage plus retained one of the original rooms). They clearly showed that no hedges had been removed and that no damage had been done despite our neighbor saying that they had ripped them out.
I apologize for the length of this post. I do find it hard to condense things. I have to take a morphine substitute (oxycodone) and wear fentanyl patched (due to a serious road traffic accident in which I was hit from behind while cycling to work. I was left untreated with four broken vertebrae. Because of not being treated, I've been left in considerable pain, which the specialists have said cannot be fixed; so i have to take strong pain killers. These make it hard for me to concentrate. It's taken me three hours to write this post.
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