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Advice needed - neighbours side extension!

(14 Posts)
Anonsad Fri 25-Mar-16 18:40:49

Our new neighbours are considering extending down the side of their house meaning they would be only about 5 ft from my sons bedroom window and our sole bedroom would be between two walls (like at the end of the alley).

I spoke to them rather emotionally about the effect this would have on my family but they really didn't seem to care. She is pregnant so I'm kind of surprised you could be so cold about my babies room and the effect this could have. We would be living in darkness for most of our lives with this. Surely they can't go ahead with it?!

We live in Southwark if that helps with providing info.

lalalonglegs Fri 25-Mar-16 18:56:15

It's really hard to visualise what you mean but is it going to need planning permission? If so, you can see if you have grounds to object.

JeffreySadsacIsUnwell Fri 25-Mar-16 19:08:00

I am assuming that you are in a typical Victorian terrace, with an outrigger at the back, and that you have adjoining side returns, so connected to this neighbour on the short side and the other neighbour on the long side. Is that right?

If so, extensions would fall under Class A

essentially it wouldn't be permitted development if

"(e) the enlarged part of the dwellinghouse would have a single storey and—
(i) extend beyond the rear wall of the original dwellinghouse by more than 4 metres in the case of a detached dwellinghouse, or 3 metres in the case of any other dwellinghouse, or
(ii) exceed4metresinheight;
(f) the enlarged part of the dwellinghouse would have more than one storey and—
(i) extend beyond the rear wall of the original dwellinghouse by more than 3 metres, or
(ii) be within 7 metres of any boundary of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse opposite the rear wall of the dwellinghouse;
(g) the enlarged part of the dwellinghouse would be within 2 metres of the boundary of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse, and the height of the eaves of the enlarged part would exceed 3 metres;"

So under (g) above, the side return is clearly going to be within 2 metres of your property, therefore they can't build higher than 3m ground to eaves. They're going to struggle to get two storeys into that height unless they're hobbits!

They could, of course, apply for planning permission. I can't see they'd be likely to get a 2-storey extension under your right to light, but I might be wrong.

Generally the norm to get extra ground floor space and extra bedroom space is a side return infill / wraparound side return and rear extension / loft conversion.

Smile sweetly at them and point out the middle of their house is going to be incredibly low-ceilinged and very dark with no windows!

bigmouthstrikesagain Fri 25-Mar-16 19:08:09

It depends. If the extension affects your light you can object at the planning stage, site visits will be carried out and the plans assessed by building control to ensure compliance with building regs. The situation may not be as dire as you imagine. It is probably too much to expect a person wanting to expand their own living space (rather than go through the more stressful and expensive process of moving house), to be dissuaded by the effect on the neighbours, unless it is backed up with a planning objection that is upheld.

The southwark planning portal is down for maintenance at the moment but a quick search of planning law will tell you what is permitted development and what needs permission and you can look up regs on the right to natural light. Without the details it is hard to judge whether you will have a valid objection.

JeffreySadsacIsUnwell Fri 25-Mar-16 19:09:48

single storey side return and rear extension

JeffreySadsacIsUnwell Fri 25-Mar-16 19:18:09

And from the mention of your bedroom windows, I assume you mean that they are planning a 2-storey infill... If you're in a ground floor flat, and they're planning a single-storey infill, then yes, that would be PD and not much you can do about it, but presumably you have a fence there atm anyway.

Normally the single-storey side return extension would enlarge a kitchen-diner and often the roof of the side return would be glazed to bring in extra light. Are you sure that's not what they're planning? If so, it shouldn't adversely affect you though the wall would be close to the boundary and could be up to 3m high with a flat roof - I'd say over half of the houses in the roads round us now have a side return extension. You could, of course, do the same...

Anonsad Fri 25-Mar-16 19:18:28

Thanks so much for the replies.

Jeffrey- yes that sounds like the layout of our place. We are both ground floor flats, so they would only really be able to extend down our side or out the back.

We only get light on th back side of our house in the afternoon, so hoping the light objection would be valid.

Anonsad Fri 25-Mar-16 19:28:03

Jeffrey - we are share of freehold, so that area down the side of our house is shared upstairs... I'm guessing we would have to buy it off them? For us, it would enlarge my son's room only which I'm not terribly concerned about but it does sound like it might be the only way for us to retain light in his room.

JeffreySadsacIsUnwell Fri 25-Mar-16 20:11:55

Ah, ok. I can see why you're bothered. TBH, I don't know if being a flat changes things or not - it may be the legislation I cited only applies to single dwellings anyway.

Have your neighbours bought the freehold then? I'm more confused than before as to their intentions, as presumably they can build the extension only as high as their current ceiling - anything higher on the external wall belongs to their upstairs neighbours. I guess it means they could have a flat roof, in which case the wall wouldn't be 3m high but still around 2.4m, or maybe a pitched roof sloping upwards from 2.4m on the existing wall to 3m on the boundary, which would be an even bigger issue for you. However, I am struggling to see where they will get any natural light from, because surely they are not going to want a glass roof over bedrooms especially when the upstairs belongs to someone else, and they can't have any side windows right next to the boundary...

I think your best plan is not to get too upset at the moment but wait and see - not sure they'll be able to do it under PD so they'd have to apply for PP, at which point your best defence is probably right to light - though they may have realised by then that the trade-off for their extra space (what, 1.5x3m?) is going to be a troglodyte life or a total loss of privacy. There's a reason the Victorians built the terraces with side returns, and that was to get light into the middle room.

Anonsad Fri 25-Mar-16 20:21:55

Thanks Jeffrey, i'll stop worrying for now. I've spent the past week getting very little sleep (teething 11 mo and worrying about this). I think that they are likely going to make the realisation that you mentioned above (very little space gained) for the hassle of having to apply to PP and all the problems re privacy and the fact that the greatest source of light would likely be our lightbulbs!

MrsPJones Fri 25-Mar-16 20:35:52

I think they need planning permission if they are a flat. There is already a fence there right? We did a side return extension to the side and extending back. In our situation, the neighbours side return is actually much brighter now, rather than a dark old fence they have a wall rendered and painted white reflecting a lot of light. I do get how you feel, we had our stunning park view blocked when our next door neighbour built out over their side return. I just wanted to give you hope it might not end up as bad as you think.

JeffreySadsacIsUnwell Fri 25-Mar-16 20:54:26

I do have to stress that I don't know what planning/PD applies to flats, though - eg whether the % applies to the whole building, whether there's a different %, etc.

However, if it is allowed under PD, then you should assume that the impact wouldn't be as great as you fear. I just took a look on the East Dulwich Forum (always loads of useful info, and Southwark), and there are plenty of threads about side returns, height, light, etc.

"My best friend is a residential architect so its something that she deals with a lot and yes, I would say rarely does a single storey infill extension cause a real problem regarding loss of light. Most planning officers assume as standard that if an infill doesn't extend beyond the original bounary of the row of terraces and if the roof eaves are circa 2.2m there won't be loss of light."

Boundaries are permitted to the height of 8ft, so in theory, your neighbours (or you) could erect a solid fence which would have equal or greater impact than a side return of 2.2m. A 3m high extension wall right next to the boundary would obviously be worse case scenario but surely wouldn't make sense for them to try to do anyway, for the reasons stated previously.

So yes, if you currently have a 4ft fence between you, then you will suffer adversely from a side return extension, but on the other hand, the proposal shouldn't leave you any worse off than the max permitted height fence, so actually your son's bedroom could be worse off for the cost of a fence panel... And the neighbours still have to work out whether it's worth it, given that most side returns are done to provide a huge open plan space, a benefit not available to a flat which needs to be subdivided into bedroom/bathroom/kitchen/reception areas. If they do it, and it works out well for them, you'd get a sneak preview of what could be in it for you should you do the same...

Even if it's PD, they'll still need you and your upstairs to sign the party wall agreement - they can't go ahead without your knowledge. If you dissent, they'll need to appoint and pay for a surveyor.

Hope it all goes well for you, but it does sound as though you might suffer less from the lack of light than you fear flowers.

Quodlibet Fri 25-Mar-16 21:02:53

They will definitely need PP if they are a flat. They will also possibly need to check that they don't have vary the terms of their lease, depending on what their lease and the other leases attached to the freehold say. Southwark are notoriously strict when it comes to PP, so they may well not get granted if they affect your light negatively.

The other thing you can do to throw a spanner in the works is drag out the Party Wall agreement (if I am visualising it right and they will be working on the party wall?)

JeffreySadsacIsUnwell Fri 25-Mar-16 21:34:53

They'll be working digging foundations near enough to the boundary to need a PWA...

Makes sense they'd need pp for a flat.

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