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Climbing frame complaint from neighbour - help!

(14 Posts)
2plus1 Sat 13-Apr-13 20:19:33

I have asked the owner of the adjoining property to shorten the leylandii trees along side our adjoining fence when his tenants move out soon. He was rather off hand and non-committal during the conversation and additionally put forward a complaint from the tenants about our children hanging over the neighbours fence whilst standing on the upper level of the wooden play castle in our garden. I didn't comment on this but know that this couldn't have happened as our toddlers cannot see over the walls of the castle, they are too short. We are now concerned that they may go complaining to the council about the castle and they may want it removed.

The castle is within 2m of the adjoining garden fence but is just 2.4m tall so within council requirements. However, it has a platform higher than 30cm so effectively would require planning permission - so would every neighbours trampoline too!! We do not have any docs for planning permission on this structure. It was advertised as a feature of the property when we purchased nov2011-feb2012 and was included in the purchase price. As far as I am aware it was there for 2yrs prior to our purchase, prob built when the extension was completed in 2008/9. Our neighbour knows the previous owner and was aware of him building the castle for his older kids, likewise the tenants have lived there 3.5yrs and have only now decided to complain. Where do we legally stand should the council be involved?

Thank you for any help you can give.

ChippingInLovesSpring Sat 13-Apr-13 20:21:56

Sorry - no legal advice, but why on earth didn't you say to him 'Sorry, but that's an out and out lie. Our children are only x (age or height) and are unable to even see over the sides of it, let alone hang over the fence!'.

Sorry you're having this hassle and I hope it works out OK for you.

whomovedmychocolate Sat 13-Apr-13 20:26:01

The council are unlikely to investigate - they are far too busy dealing with people throwing up extensions to worry about sodding climbing frames. Besides I'm sure it's not a permanent structure is it? I would ignore his complaints entirely.

HondaJizz Sat 13-Apr-13 20:28:46

Isn't there a four year rule? Whereas if something hasn't been challenged within four years of it being built, it can stay?

I'm sure that was the case with a bathroom in my last house....

whomovedmychocolate Sat 13-Apr-13 20:38:07

HondaJizz - nope. They can still take action against you.

monsterchild Sat 13-Apr-13 20:40:27

It sounds like he's trying to get out of doing anything to the trees. Tell him to go to the council, but trim the trees!

2plus1 Sat 13-Apr-13 20:40:42

'Chipping - I was quite surprised during the convo about the complaint so didn't retaliate at the time. I think the overall defensiveness of his tone meant I was overly polite but obviously can verify easily that it is a lie when he pops by.......

The castle is built of wood and the posts are fixed into the ground with a decking surround so is fairly well placed rather than a 'frame type' that can be 'picked up' (by some manly hunks!!). I guess it would take some dismantling unless a chain saw was used - would this be considered permanent?

HondaJizz - I think I have heard about a rule where the permission is given as I think our downstairs toilet was under that. I don't know if I can prove the 4 years as our paperwork details it from our purchase as being an existing structure. My date 2008/9 is from neighbours the other side whose grandchildren played on it with the previous owners children.

Incidentally our solicitor never mentioned permission being needed when we purchased but they were quite useless lol.

Flosshilde Sat 13-Apr-13 20:46:26

There is case law where one of these was considered to be a raised platform rather than an outbuilding, thus needing planning permission if over 30cm in height, rather than if over 2.5m in height within 2m of the boundary. So your Council could, in theory, take enforcement action. They may or may not consider it expedient, depends on precise circumstances.

However, it will be lawful and immune from enforcement action if it has been there for more than 4 years. It would be for you to prove this 'on the balance of probabilities' through applying for a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development.

If you can't prove it you would still be entitled to apply for retrospective planning permission.

Flosshilde Sat 13-Apr-13 20:50:55

X posts. Your neighbours, if willing, could complete a signed affidavit stating they remember it being there and in use in 2008 as evidence for a Certificate of Lawfulness.

It would definitely be considered a permanent structure in planning law. Would need to be easily moveable (such that you would probably not trust it's stability) to be considered otherwise.

I'm a local authority planner btw.

2plus1 Sat 13-Apr-13 20:59:11

Thank you Flosshilde, that certainly clarifies things. Is it easy to get a 'Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development' with a neighbour confirming its existence over 4 yrs ago? I guess our solicitor could speak with the seller to clarify when he built it.

I think my worry with applying for retrospective planning is that we acknowledge with the council its existence with the potential for them to insist on its removal. We know our children cannot spy on the neighbours garden from it, certainly not for a couple of years yet anyhow.

All I wanted was for the trees (that are as tall as our two storey house) to be lopped to 2m height so we can enjoy some sun in our garden in the afternoons...........shouldn't have flipping asked!!

Flosshilde Sat 13-Apr-13 21:13:45

I wouldn't do anything unless the Council come knocking, tbh, although the question may be asked when you sell up and you could end up in the same position but with the potential to hold up a house sale. You may well have had it yourselves for 4 years by then though and therefore more evidence for a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development (CLD).

If you have the evidence, a CLD is easy to get. It is simply a legal determination so there will be no consideration of the merits of the development. It doesn't matter if it overlooks the neighbours, they can't object. They could submit counter-evidence that it hadn't been there for 4 years but this is rare.

It is like a planning application but half the fee, so £86. Fill in forms, submit evidence and wait. Phone up 2 weeks before target date to see if there is anything else they need. It only gets tricky if you don't have the evidence. It sounds like you have.

Flosshilde Sat 13-Apr-13 21:23:22

Here is government booklet on them and there is likely to be advice on your Council's website too.

HondaJizz Sat 13-Apr-13 21:28:07

Yee ha! I knew there was a rule about four years! Good luck OP.

dippymother Sat 20-Apr-13 08:54:20

Wasn't there some new rules regarding height of trees near houses? Can't remember exactly but I feel sure that if the trees are taller than your house and/or close to the house then legally they should be lopped regularly? I seem to remember a big campaign some years ago which prompted the government to take action but my memory is vague, sorry.

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