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Desperately need some screening advice

(139 Posts)
cakeycakeface Mon 28-Mar-16 17:53:30

We've just lost a planning decision that went to committee. We now face having two very large double storey buildings being built parallel and directly in front of us. All our public rooms face into them as well as one bedroom. Our home is an old bungalow on an elevated position which means their top floor windows and glazed fronts will have views into our home. We know this because the neighbour already has these views.

We need screening, and really fast, and I expect it will be costly. We don't want a leylandi (sp?) hedge, because we're going to have to look at this everyday and I'm not a fan of them. A mixture of trees and shrubs and hedging. I'm going to have to let go my dream of bedding borders!

We'd need to try plant immediately for a height that can screen the windows. It's going to be hard, these buildings are massive and very ugly.

And yes, we're also thinking of moving, but we'd have to screen anyway to sell the house.

I would really appreciate some advice. I'm feeling very low about it and need to try focus forwards.

cooper44 Mon 28-Mar-16 19:01:18

How high do you think the screening needs to be?
You can get troughs of instant hedging which are great - although expensive.
Maybe you need to layer a few different elements?
I have a couple of laurel trees that block out my neighbours - although I had to take out one of them for drainage works - but they look great all year round. I also have black bamboo which will give a fairly instant effect and I really like it mixed in with other trees etc. It's probably about 16ft tall - it's not invasive like some other bamboo.
How much space to you need to fill?
You can of course also buy mature trees but it's mega bucks and there are cheaper ways to screen.

cakeycakeface Mon 28-Mar-16 20:15:55

We have a stretch of about 25m sad, with a row of ugly overbearing houses. It's horrible.

We're above them a bit. We plan to build a retaining wall and level our lawn, which will give us 1m added height immediately on the boundary. We'll put back our existing fence which is 1.8m on the new ground level. Plants about 3m of height planted on that might screen to top of the windows. (See my silly sketch below). That won't screen wall and roof above the windows so ideally I'd want to have plants/trees higher than that as well.

I hadn't thought of bamboo, thanks for the suggestion. We know this is going to cost us a small fortune but we have no choice. I liked the idea of pleached trees along the fence so I could still have some borders but they are very pricey.

Eustace2016 Mon 28-Mar-16 20:49:53

Do check local rules too in case the new neighbours will have rights to light and there are rules on the maximum height of any trees you put up.

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 07:36:51

Our new fence height might be an issue. Assuming they measure from base of wall on road side. If they measure from ground on our side it isn't. Usually they'd measure from our side, but I do feel there is an element of risk here. If we have to lower the fence we will do so and possibly add a trellis with creepers on top instead.

The landscape consultation recommended that the new houses had 'meaningful' screening about 4m from the building and said that that would not interrupt their enjoyment of their property. However I'm not sure yet if that's a condition of development. Planning are being real bastards. Even if it was, it will be patchy screening and we don't think will ever obscure upper windows. We can at least throw that back if planning have an issue with ours.

Our screening will be further away and across a road. The trees may look tall to neighbours, but will have to be measured from the ground so may not actually be that tall.

We also want to get them in before the houses are built so that they are bought by people who accept something as already there, IYKWIM.

We also expect they might be happy about it because we have views into their home too! The other neighbour already there won't object.

cooper44 Tue 29-Mar-16 08:34:19

oh yes pleached trees is a good idea and will look great - although you then wouldn't want to cover those up with anything else.
There's a good video of Toby Buckland online doing his own pleached trees which makes it look very easy and a lot more economical than buying them - although again it will take a few years to fill out. I love magnolia grandiflora pleached, which are also evergreen.

shovetheholly Tue 29-Mar-16 11:37:29

I understand that this is a really upsetting decision and that you want to do something immediately to reestablish control over your space. It's only natural when you get a blow like that.

However, my honest advice would be to wait.

First of all, there is this proposal to have 'meaningful screening' as part of the development. And, as you say, those moving into the houses won't want to be overlooked any more than you do - therefore it's in the developer's interests to solve this for you. There's every reason to think you'll get a solution at their own cost - and by a professional landscaper. Some new developments have really high quality landscaping these days (even where the houses are on the cheaper side).

Secondly, you don't want two rows of dense screening - theirs and your own it will potentially cut out light to your own house. If you do need to do something about upper storey windows, it may be a question of one or two well-placed things and not a whole row of 30 foot trees that require difficult and expensive maintenance.

I have a block of flats at the back of my house - 3 stories high! There is virtually no overlooking because (as in your case) the bottom windows are too low, and there's a well-placed tree in front of the couple of windows that do look our way on the higher floors. Surprisingly little is actually needed in a lot of these cases to solve the problem and maintain privacy.

shovetheholly Tue 29-Mar-16 11:38:35

Ooops, that should say "Secondly, you don't want two rows of dense screening - theirs and your own - as it will potentially cut out light to your own house".

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 12:49:40

I hear you shove. We are going to speak to the developer, but he's a local developer - small time - so I don't hold out much hope. I've attached another silly scribble, birds eye view. Our house stretches across all three (one already built). So the angles of views are multiple and varied. I am currently sitting in the conservatory and can see the woman hoovering her landing in the house opposite our bedroom.

The development has lots of hard landscaping so there are only two places they can plant up (the small circular bits in front of Windows). We don't think they'll allow the trees to cover the Windows because of light issues.

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 12:55:01

On the trees, they will be affected more than us. They will lose morning sun but will gain privacy. We might lose some evening sun but not much. Their houses will still be higher than our trees though, so that's where sun will be lost for us.

I'd rather not have a row of trees, I'd prefer to mix it up. This was going to be a deep border, so if I can screen to a height and mix in shrubs as well so it still feels like a garden rather than a screen, that would be my preference.

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 12:56:51

Oh, forgot to say, we have massive Windows on all the rooms. Bay windows and one big bow window. So they can see a lot.

Kr1stina Tue 29-Mar-16 13:33:59

I think holly has a good point about waiting

However you might want to check out the practicalities and cost of what you are proposing as a solution . You'll need

Access for plant and materials.
Expert advice on that wall which will be holding back tonnes of soil
Lots of money

Remember that once you have build your wall, you will still need to get a tractor in to dig the hole and plant your big trees . You might want to get a price for building the wall higher and forgetting the fence .

Mature trees are not cheap . You can have a look online , single stem trees are sold by girth and not height . If you want them 3 m tall with a reasonable sized crown I d guess you want around G18-20 or G20-25. I'd want to see them first before buying .

Most deciduous trees are not very fast growing and they take a few years to get established . They might grow quickly after five years but I'm guessing you want some privacy sooner than that

Twitterqueen Tue 29-Mar-16 13:39:50

I would recommend bamboo. I had trouble with neighbours and needed immediate screening and these do work. I like them because they're fluid - not rigid - so you get lots of movement and light changes.

They do have a tendency to take over after a few years so you will probably have to thin them out every now and then but that's not really a problem. You can get them around 6-9ft and of course they'll grow taller. I think I paid about £30 each for them - but prices will vary.

PurpleWithRed Tue 29-Mar-16 13:50:00

Be really really careful to get a bamboo that clumps not one that spreads - the spreaders are a nightmare to keep in their place.

As it happens I’ve just asked the RHS for advice on this -wanted something to screen an existing eyesore at the bottom of the garden although less need for speed than you have. They recommended:

I would suggest a Pittosporum such as Garnettii, it really does grow to about 5m and is greyish-green with creamy-white margins . Others to consider -
Elaeagnus × ebbingei 'Limelight' grows to about 3m high and has silvery young leave, marked with yellow and pale green in the centres
Griselina littoralis has bright green leaves and grows to about 8m. There are smaller variegated leaf forms such as 'Dixons Cream' and 'Variegata'
Ligustrum lucidum 'Excelsum Superbum' has yellow margined bright green leaves and grows approximately 6-10m
Ligustrum 'Vicaryi ' has golden-yellow leaves and reaches 3m high
Magnolia grandiflora has dark green leaves, felted chocolate-brown beneath, but these are offset by beautiful large white goblet shaped flowers in summer. Height 10m or more
Olea europaea (olive) has silvery-grey foliage and is slow growing to about 10m high
Olearia macrodonta is a vigorous shrub or small tree from New Zealand and although the holly-like leaves are dark green, they are white felted beneath and there are white daisy-like flowers in summer. It grows to 6m.
Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Variegatus' has bright yellow margined bright green leaves and reaches about 3m high
Photinia × fraseri 'Red Robin' green leaves colour red when young and grows to about 5m high

Hope that gives you some ideas.

shovetheholly Tue 29-Mar-16 13:57:17

Sorry, I am confused - are the houses already up? Or is this something that is going to happen? Just trying to get the timescales straight in my head and to understand why there are no areas for 'meaningful screening' if that was recommended.

From your diagram, I can really see the issues you face and why you are upset!

I like your idea of a border with varied heights in it. I would have a really good, hard think about where the screening is that I'd need - and that's partly about which of their spaces are heavily used, and partly about where you need privacy. I probably wouldn't worry too much about a landing window, for instance, as it's unlikely anyone will be up there for long - but I would worry more about a bedroom, for example. It's not a question of not having screening, but of getting the absolute most out of the height where you do place it.

Along with screening, there's also a kind of tricking of the eye that happens with good design: something bright and attractive in the right place can simply draw attention away from ugly areas. It's not privacy that this produces, but a kind of psychological effect of it, if that makes sense. A good shape to a border will help with this - one that perhaps protrudes out towards the house in places and retreats back in others. I think your plan of a retaining wall is a very smart one - I did this in my garden as a way of levelling a slope, and it really has worked well. I constructed it cheaply out of buttressed breeze block and then faced it in stone - worked out way cheaper than brick. For what you are doing, you wouldn't even really have to think about facing, because you're not going to see it!

Also, if you can stand it for a bit, some trees grow really quite quickly! This can save £££ if money is an issue. For example, a planting of three or five of the very white birch, Betula jacquemontii, will shoot up in no time and give you deciduous cover, plus a focal point that draws the eye in the winter. In fact, a lot of people plant these for a short time (15-25 years) with the intention of getting rid and replacing (this keeps the trunks really white and pure).

On a positive note, I also think you sort of get used to protecting each other's privacy after a bit - the front of my house is quite overlooked, and the neighbour across and I will sometimes catch one another's eye across lounges and wave, and then studiously go back to pretending we can't see each other at all grin. Hopefully your neighbours will be equally pleasant, which might go some way towards making you feel better about what sounds like a really difficult decision to deal with. flowers

Kr1stina Tue 29-Mar-16 14:29:37

I'm a bit shock at the RHS suggestions. Why would you let privet grow to 10m high ?

And if you let most of these shrubs grow to the height suggested , they will be as wide as they are high . I have hollies and laurel which are about 4m high and they must be that in diameter as well . That's fine here as they are far from the house and screening some ugly sheds but I'm not sure it will work for the OP as they would block out much of the light and be too near her house .

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 14:30:43

The house opposite the bedroom is already up. And it's a nightmare. We look directly into their house walking down our passage. We can't get used to it. The other two have just been approved.

There will be a total of six large bedroom windows facing us and the landing stairs front into a floor to ceiling glass window. People climbing stairs will be facing our house as they go up.

I have two small children. Very worried about their privacy. People could watch them playing in all the rooms across the house.

The landscape recommendation was for 'meaningful planting' to provide 'valuable screening'. Planning, in their report to the committee, had this as an 'informative' (up to the developer) not as a condition. Our councillors have demanded it as a condition. The thing is, there is so much hard landscaping in front of the houses there is no where to plant so it's very meaningless, even if applied. We think planning excluded it to try persuade the committee privacy was such non issue screening wasn't even required. It is though: invited councillors and planning officer to see, which they did. Developer too: he was shocked.

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 14:31:26

Thank you for all the suggestions, I'm going to start a list and research. Would much rather get a professional doing it though.

Kr1stina Tue 29-Mar-16 14:36:26

We have some new houses ( very expensive ) built near us and they have just had some landscapers do some planting . It's what the council would plant on a roundabout and would screen nothing, so I hope you get something better

it will be dead soon anyway as its not suitable for our weather - it was designed by their head office in London

Kr1stina Tue 29-Mar-16 14:37:04

What's your budget for this project cakey?

shovetheholly Tue 29-Mar-16 14:50:48

I'm glad the developer was shocked! Can you get in touch with him and ask about this issue? Even if the houses have to be built, surely there might be something that can be done to remove some of the hard landscaping and sort out this problem? <hopeful> It really sounds tremendously intrusive for your family.

Agree absolutely with what Kristina says about width to height. I'm guessing you don't want something 6 metres wide! This is where a few slender trees combined with something like a hedge pleached (or simply trained) to just the right height could be really helpful. What's your climate like?

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 14:53:52

We were quoted 7-8k by a landscape architect, including the wall and soil to backfill. He suggested we get the developer to throw up a wall with his labour, and to backfill with soil from the buildings. So that would be a saver if the developer agreed. I imagine we will only want the topsoil though.

That's money we don't have. We'll have to take a loan but we haven't got a choice really.

shovetheholly Tue 29-Mar-16 15:03:03

I think I would gird my loins for a persuasive chat with the planners and/or developer to get him to pay for the wall and decent topsoil - you don't want some crap from a few feet down! Just because you lost the overall planning battle doesn't mean you can't win some of the details still, surely??

To be honest, you can call it a selling point for his houses too. I imagine that the cost would be far less than £6-8k if that were covered.

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 15:05:22

Shove, DH spoke to the developer when he was at the house and we contacted him afterwards too. He even said, had he known, that he'd have submitted different plans but now couldn't lose time hmm. Appeared bothered by our kids too. They will have nowhere, except our bedroom at the back, where they can play. The garden is 90% overlooked as well, so no privacy there. Last we were in touch with the developer he said he was talking to his architect to make changes that he hoped would be amendments, but hasn't come back to us. DH said he seemed genuine, but he could be fibbing to try keep us sweet. _
We're quite high up so hardiness is a consideration.

As background, the initial plans for this are on ground carved out of what used to be land around our house. The former owner was the developer and essentially asset stripped the property. If he could have found a way to turn the front lawn into a plot I think he would have (access issues). We really didn't appreciate the privacy impact until we moved in. It's odd: it feels much worse in the house than garden. At DDs birthday last year, we had our neighbours 2 DCs pressed against their windows watching the fun the whole afternoon. It made me feel awful!

cakeycakeface Tue 29-Mar-16 15:11:28

You've all been fantastically helpful, btw. I really need to focus forward and try prevent the DCs sending my despair. If u don't I'll sink. I was crying last night. I hate that!! It's helping me stop shaking (literally) thinking this through. I said to DH last night that I need to believe we can do something because the thought of moving is awful. We have good schools lined up and a large but empty garden plus other good things about here. I want to stay here if I can. If I can't, I need to think about making it more appealing to a buyer.

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