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If you feel that your neighbours' building plans will impact on your views or otherwise harm your enjoyment of your home, you should not hesitate to consult a solicitor. In one case, a couple who did just that succeeded in blocking construction of a strikingly modern house on land adjoining their garden.
The couple's neighbours had obtained planning permission for the new house in the garden of their existing home. However, the title deeds of their property contained a restrictive covenant dating back to 1874. It dictated, amongst other things, that only one house could be built on their land. They applied to the Upper Tribunal (UT) to modify or discharge the covenant so that they could proceed with their project. The application was, however, resisted by the couple whose garden adjoined the proposed development site.
The neighbours said that the house had been designed by an architect to meet the needs of one of them who was in poor health. Built into a slope with a low-pitched roof, it would have a minimal visual impact on the existing neighbourhood. They pointed out that construction of modern homes in more traditional areas was becoming more prevalent.
The couple, however, said that it would overlook their garden, making it feel more enclosed, and impinge on their panoramic countryside views. Their peace would be considerably disturbed by the building works and by increased traffic movements thereafter. Having bought their home only recently, they had been reassured by the protection afforded by the covenant.
Dismissing the neighbours' application, the UT rejected arguments that the covenant was obsolete. Despite its antiquity, the thrust of the restrictions it imposed were still very much alive in the 21st century. It continued to secure practical benefits that were of substantial value to the couple. The ruling meant that the neighbours' building plans could not proceed.