for People with a Passion for Period Property
Ask an Agony Uncle!
Stephen Boniface - Stephen Boniface specialises in building conservation providing multi-disciplinary consulting services. He is Chairman of the Building Surveying Faculty and member of the Residential faculty. He serves on the RICS Building Conservation Forum Board and is the 'Agony Uncle' on the Period Property UK website (www.periodproperty.co.uk).

Ask our Agony Uncles ...

You can write to our panel of experts free of charge on any subject, providing it's got something to do with Period Properties.

Our experts are all specialists in matters directly involved with older properties. So, if you have a problem with an older building - or if you think you might have a problem - ask an Agony Uncle...

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SUBJECT:
Lack of sound proofing causes problem for bedroom with flying freehold
FROM:
Sue Holgate-Williams
(Greater Manchester)

I live in a flying freehold and my bedroom was over a shop when I moved in. It was originally one property. There is only one brick between my bedroom and next door. 5 years ago someone bought the shop to turn into a dwelling. However, since then one of my bedrooms is virtually unusable because the person has run out of money and has not soundproofed it. You can hear every conversation clearly. The rest of the house is fine. I contacted the council but without success. Is there any legal requirement for this person or the council to ensure that the soundproofing is adequate?

Sue Holgate-Williams

If, as I suspect, the conversion from shop to dwelling required building regulation approval the work will be subject to regular inspection by building control officers. If the work is still in progress it will not have been signed off. The building regulation approval would normally have required upgrading of sound and fire proofing between the property and any neighbouring dwelling such as yours.

Your first course of action is therefore to contact the building control department to establish whether they have had any involvement at all and if so what stage has been reached. If they are involved they should be able to provide some guidance on what is happening at present and what you should do for the time being regarding your concerns. They may have some powers to require the owner of the property to undertake the soundproofing.

If you discover that the work has not been carried out with building control approval you should of course report it so that they look into it. The issue of fire proofing is important as there may be implications on insurance etc.

Your first enquiries should therefore be of building control to seek their assistance regarding these matters.

If they are unable (or unwilling) to help or you reach a point where their assistance is limited you might need to go to environmental health on the basis of a noise nuisance. They may or may not be able to help you and it could be that you will have to face getting your own acoustic specialist to undertake tests and advise in more detail.

In terms of legal requirement if the work requires building regulation approval there are certain requirements and the council should be involved and enforce as necessary. You mention that you contacted the council without success but you may not have contacted the correct department, or you may need to approach them with the possibility of enforcement issues. If they refuse to investigate or take any action you may need to seek legal advice and perhaps even go to the Ombudsman.

The environmental health department may be able to assist as mentioned above and they should also be contacted.

Finally, if your insurances include cover for legal costs it might be worth seeking advice from the insurance company's legal advice line regarding these matters. It could be that a letter from a solicitor advising that there is a noise nuisance and possible fire protection issue could assist in getting the neighbour to undertake the work.

You will need to seek advice as to the practicalities but you could of course consider undertaking the work from your side of the property and charging half or more of the cost to the neighbour. Again before you do anything like this, seek legal advice.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Should I be concerned over my splitting beams?
FROM:
Kay Dales
(Suffolk)

One of the large beams in my lounge is splitting vertically along its length with gaps up to 12mm wide we are proposing to put 3 coach bolts through it to prevent it splitting further. Is there a better solution?

Kay Dales

Without knowing precisely where in the building the split beam is situated and what function it serves it is difficult to say whether your proposed solution is appropriate. I would mention that coach bolts without a plate behind them will create point pressure. If the split is quite long it might be better to install a length of steel and then bolt through this into the beam and through it to the other side where another length of steel could be installed. Sometimes it is necessary to install a steel section alongside the beam to strengthen it.

In simple terms it is quite acceptable to use bolts and sections of steel etc. to strengthen a timber in a timber framed building but before undertaking such work it is advisable to seek advice from a building surveyor or engineer used to dealing with such buildings.

You mention a beam which suggests a horizontal timber but then you say that it is split vertically along its length. Unfortunately this description would suggest a beam that has actually broken. What I suspect you mean is that there is a split along the grain and therefore horizontally along the beam if it is indeed horizontal. If it is a vertical member it is a post and again if it is split vertically along the grain that is not usually so much of a problem.

If it has broken across the grain it suggests undue stress and more serious problems that will need further investigation and probably the involvement of an engineer experienced in this type of building.

I am sorry I cannot be more helpful but your description is not sufficient to provide a more detailed answer.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Do I need listed building consent to replace concrete tiles with original thatch roof?
FROM:
Beth Mosley
(Suffolk)

We are looking at purchasing a Grade II listed 17th Century Hall that would originally have been thatched, however, in the seventies the thatch was replaced by concrete tiles. The property was listed since the seventies, so the concrete tiles are part of the listing. We would be interested in returning the Hall to its former glory and removing the concrete tiles and re-establishing the thatch. I wondered (a) is this possible, and (b) would it be likely to be considered something the listed building department would allow?

Beth Mosley

In terms of whether it is possible from a practical point of view the simple answer is yes. The work would have to comply with building regulations and one would have to therefore provide adequate fireproofing etc. The East Anglian Master Thatcher's Association (EAMTA) do have guidance on such matters and if you contact them (www.eamta.co.uk) they should be able to provide some assistance on this.

Whether it is something that would be allowed is a separate issue. The work will of course need listed building consent and if you have clear evidence that the thatch existed up to the 70s just before the building was listed there may be a very good argument to reinstate the thatch.

It is certainly the case that at present we are losing thatch at a more rapid rate than thatch is being put on to houses and therefore the world of thatching would be very pleased to see thatch reinstated on a building that was once thatched.

From a conservation point of view concrete tiles are not particularly aesthetically pleasing and going back to the original thatch may indeed be regarded as a positive move. However, this is a discussion you will need to have with the conservation officer. I suggest an informal chat would be a sensible starting point.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Conservation officer insists we keep 1960's render
FROM:
Robert Hodges
(Cambridgeshire)

I'm in the process of buying a Tudor farmhouse which was originally of timber and red brick construction. 2 external walls have been rendered in cement render in the 60s and re-rendered in the 90s when the internal walls were also plastered in a non-lime formulation. The render goes right down to cement plinths and at ground level there are no gravel trenches around the house so as far as I can see there 's no way for the timbers which we know are underneath to breathe.

The conservation officer does not want us remove the 1960s render despite every other contact and our surveyor recommending the opposite, because the bricks may be damaged in the removal process. I now feel like pulling out of the purchase as I can't bear (or afford) to buy a house where the timbers will be rotting with official approval! What can I do?

Robert Hodges

I would certainly agree that a cement render on a timber frame building and indeed an historic brick building can be damaging and in my experience usually causes an acceleration of deterioration of the fabric. However, it is not always the case that render is causing damage. I have had several instances in the last year or so where I was convinced the cement render would be causing damage but when sections were removed for investigative purposes we found the frame to be in perfectly sound condition. This does not necessarily change my general view that cement render is a bad thing for historic buildings but it does go to show that not all buildings with cement render will be suffering in the same way or to the same extent.

The purpose of the above discussion is to suggest that you might need to undertake some careful localised opening up and investigation to establish whether indeed the frame and or the brickwork are suffering from a problem. If they are then your argument for removal of the render, repair of the frame and reinstatement of lime render is of course much stronger.

Apart from the practical issue of whether it is actually causing a problem it is reasonable for the officer to state that removal of the render could cause more damage than the render is actually causing. However, one then has to ask what finish is to be achieved after the removal of the render. If one was hoping to get back to exposed brickwork then I think you have to think again because it is quite unlikely that the brickwork would be in such a condition that you would be able or would wish to leave it exposed. Realistically the brickwork would have to be covered up again with a render or other form of cladding. I assume in this instance that your intention is to remove the cement render and to reinstate a lime render. This would seem sensible.

However, before decisions are made what may need to happen is for a careful percussion test (careful tapping of the surface) to be undertaken across the face of the render to establish where the render is already hollow and losing its key and where it is bound tightly and likely to cause damage to the brickwork if removed. If a high proportion of the render has already lost its key then the argument put forward by the conservation officer is more difficult to sustain because very little damage is likely to occur. However, if you find most of the render is still sound then the officer's argument is probably correct in that it will cause more damage to remove it than by leaving it.

It seems to me that the officer's concern is about the damage to brickwork but as this is a construction that involves timber as well the key issue may be the condition of the timbers. If the brickwork is to be re-rendered again after the work the fact that it might be damaged is to some extent irrelevant because it will be covered over by the render and then protected by the render. More important is the condition of timber and what is happening with the timber. This does need further investigation.

I therefore suggest that to pursue the argument further you will need to undertake some more investigation perhaps with the help of your existing surveyor. It might also be useful to enlist support of the likes of SPAB. The SPAB technical officer is Douglas Kent and I am sure he would be happy to discuss this further with you.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
How do I get a mortgage on a property which is deemed uninhabitable?
FROM:
Laura Cuss
(Norfolk)

We have had an offer accepted on a period property (Grade II), which we are purchasing from a builder property developer who has split an old 14 bedroom Manor Estate into 3 units. (He is doing up two units himself but is selling the 3rd as-is for cash flow purposes)

However, he has gone some way in the development process and has stripped out much of the old plumbing, plaster and electrics. Therefore the property needs much renovation and is priced accordingly. However, in getting to finalising our mortgage the mention the 'requirements' for them to value the property (we had mentioned that it was not habitable and was a development project several times!!!). It appears most of the high street lenders require it to be habitable, and the advice we were given from the valuation company for our bank is this means:

  • All mains utilities connected to the individual unit
  • Running hot and cold water
  • Kitchen (though they recognised that minimal would be acceptable)
  • Bathroom
  • Some form of heating

Do you have any knowledge of lenders, or different approaches to financing such a renovation project?

We have thought about asking the builder vendor to make it habitable but this is really last resort as we would not want to fund any of this without a contract and the relevant surveys which are part of the house buying process.

Laura Cuss

Your problem is not unique in that many people wanting to 'do up' properties for occupation cannot occupy them immediately and initially the properties are uninhabitable.

The problem you face is that the conventional mortgage system in this country is geared to providing loans on properties that are habitable and ready for occupation. If you regard this as a normal domestic purchase you will come across this problem time and time again.

However, this is in fact a commercial development deal and needs to be financed and looked at in that way. The building and the site itself will go some way to providing security against any loan but a commercial lender will be looking wider at your ability to pay and what other financing you will be using to undertake the work and how the loan will be paid off at the end. You will need to undertake detailed cash flow analysis and present this as a commercial proposition rather than a domestic purchase.

There are some lenders that might be prepared to consider this and whilst I cannot be certain you could look at those such as the Ecological Building Society, the Co-Operative Bank etc. You may also find that some of the main lenders would be prepared to consider a loan provided it is presented in the right way and not necessarily as a standard domestic mortgage. This may mean that instead of speaking to the usual mortgage broker you will need to speak to a commercial development office in the lending institution etc.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Can I use a ground source pump for heating under a wooden floor?
FROM:
Matthew Purcell
(Oxfordshire)

I am in the process of buying a grade 2 listed properties and as part of the renovation process would like to make use of renewable energy. I have pretty much ruled out solar panels as it looks unlikely that I would get listed building consent. I would like to use a ground source heat pump and believe it works best with under floor heating. Is it possible to fit water based under floor heating under period wooden floorboards both on the ground and first floor?

Matthew Purcell

You will need to speak to the conservation officer about your proposals. There is generally a move towards trying to introduce renewable energy into historic buildings. If there are any roof slopes that are south facing and located in such a way that would be suitable for solar panels but are hidden from ground you might be able to put panels on the roof and this is something you could consider but without knowing the type of property and its appearance etc. I cannot give further guidance on this.

An alternative is to use an outbuilding for the solar panels but again this is something that needs to be carefully considered because the aesthetics may still be poor and rule this out as an option.

With regard to underfloor heating it is possible to fit underfloor heating to timber floors. There is some debate as to whether it works better under solid floors (that act like large storage heaters) or under timber floors. With timber floors there is a risk of distortion of timbers and drying out etc. that needs to be carefully considered. However, it can be looked at.

The combination of ground source heat pump and underfloor heating is sensible. However, normally one would put the underfloor heating in at ground floor level only. It is slightly more difficult to install at first floor level and of course you might have to have a much greater capacity in terms of the ground source heat pump if it is to serve both floors. The other alternative is to look at an air source heat pump.

As mentioned above there is interest in pursuing use of renewable energy in historic buildings and I think it is worth looking at further but it does need to be carefully considered and you will need to liaise closely with the conservation officer.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Bodged work completed without complying with Party Wall Act leads to damp problem
FROM:
Peter Jones
(Devon)

My house is a terraced property. It was built circa 1825 and is Grade II Listed. I have lived in the house since 1975 with no damp problems whatsoever.

In 2003 my neighbour of many years sadly died and the house was sold to a lady who was clearly a property developer but pretended to be otherwise and out to make a quick profit. (House subsequently sold for 95.000 profit after 12 months). Major alterations were made to the house which included the erection of a kitchen extension and the removal of a passageway (previously used as a workshop) that ran from front to rear along our party wall. The area in question is now a part of the main living accommodation and utility room. The work was done in a rush and the requirements of the Party Wall Act were not complied with. No planning and listed building consent was sought by the then owner. Once I realised the extent of the work being carried out I contacted the local Council 's Building Control. They visited and the owner (Property Developer) who claimed that the majority of the internal alterations carried out by her builder were historic and done by the now deceased previous owner. Despite my disproving this by means of photographs and the Estate Agent's original description of the property no action was taken other than the owner having to put in retrospective planning permission. The application only related to the extension and alteration to windows. No mention was made of the major internal alterations carried out. The local Town Council recommended refusal and enforcement action but the District Council passed the plans. Conditions imposed were that the foundations of the kitchen extension are exposed and further details be provided as to the drainage. On this the owner stated that she was going to move the kitchen into the main house and the extension was now going to be a porch thereby not having to comply with building regulations. No check was made by the council to see if this did in fact happen. The house was sold to the current occupant and the extension is still being used a kitchen. Some two years later I experienced subsidence to my own kitchen extension. The cause of this was sewage leaking from next door's drains. My neighbour denied responsibility and this was not pursued by my insurers. I put this down to experience and was just glad the problem was solved.

However, In June 2009 we found damp in our rear lounge and running along the party wall. Damp was then found in the front living room once again along the party wall. After a process of elimination the cause of this had to be a leak from my neighbour's bathroom. She disputed this but sneaked in a plumber who repaired the leak. She was caught out on this but states he was merely fixing a leaking tap. The damp in the front room stopped but we still had damp in the rear room. I employed the services of a leak detection expert as this was not covered by my insurance. He quickly eliminated any problems in my house. I suspect that as my neighbour now believed that she had rectified the problem in her house she allowed my expert into her home. The expert attributed the cause of the damage in my home to a leak from my neighbour's bathroom which had either been repaired or "miraculously cured itself ". My neighbour denied that any repairs had been carried out. The leak detection expert attributed the still ongoing damp in my rear room to damp penetration of ground water from next door due to the neighbouring property having no form of damp protection on her side of the party wall. My neighbour states the she has been advised she does not need any due to the age of the property. I have contacted the local council who say that given the major alterations carried out in relation to the removal of the passageway this would have required compliance with building regulations and included provision for damp protection ventilation.

I have been advised that that the only way to prevent further damp and thereby allow me to redecorate my ground floor rooms is for the effected areas to be 'tanked'.

My neighbour refuses to accept any responsibility for the damp caused to my home or to take any action to stop the still ongoing dampness.

Can you please advise me if there anything I can do to get my neighbour to take action to stop the damp penetration from her property?

Peter Jones

From what you have described you have already investigated the matter and seem to have established the cause etc. You have attempted to deal with this by negotiation with the neighbour who refuses to accept liability etc. From what you describe you already have experts involved who can assist you in the matter. Without sight of the building myself it would be impossible for me to comment on the technical issues in detail and what would be appropriate in this specific instance.

Generally speaking I would regard modern damp proofing and tanking as a last resort in a historic building as one would try to get the building to breathe and function in a traditional manner. However, in this situation the circumstances may mean that more radical action has to be taken.

The practicalities of what needs to be done are for technical advice etc. and as mentioned above you seem to have covered most of this.

You could undertake work to your property to protect your property from the dampness and this could in fact create problems for the neighbour and perhaps this is something that needs to be pointed out to the neighbour. You could try again to liaise with the neighbour and have work undertaken jointly. The other alternative is to take legal action.

You should look at your various insurances to see if you have legal cost cover and if so it might be worth speaking to the lawyers about taking action.

It does sound as if the problem stems from the work undertaken by a previous owner. You are far too late to do anything about this and perhaps should have undertaken more positive action at the time. However, your neighbour could possibly pursue action against the previous owner. If you were to pursue your neighbour legally by suing her she may in turn try to sue the previous owner especially if it turns out that there were works that were not properly undertaken or were unauthorised etc. Of course that is not your concern.

In short the only answer I can offer is to take legal advice in the matter. It is possible to sue a neighbour if it can be shown that the dampness arises from the neighbouring property and is causing damage to your property.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Retrospective listed building consent required for old extension by buyers' mortgage company
FROM:
Jenny Sutton
(Wiltshire)

We have owned a Grade 2 listed terraced house for 10 years. We are now trying to sell it. The buyer's mortgage company want us to obtain retrospective listed building consent for the very old extension on the back of the house. This was there when we bought it. Is this a common problem? If so do you have any advice for us, or is there any other roads we can go down to prove that this extension was on the house when it was listed in 1950?

Jenny Sutton

The requirement of the mortgage company is totally unrealistic. The best you could do is speak to the Conservation Officer of the Council to see if they would be prepared to attend the property and provide a letter confirming that there are no issues that cause them concern for enforcement or prosecution etc. I suggest that this is probably the best that you could hope to achieve bearing in mind the age of the works etc.

An alternative would be to offer to pay for some form of insurance that would be held by the new owner against the risk of future prosecution or enforcement etc. I believe such insurance often costs a few hundred pounds and it might be worth doing this as a quick resolution to the matter.

At present a lot of mortgage companies are taking a very cautious view and sometimes being totally unrealistic with regard to their requirements in terms of proof of what has or hasn't been done in the past. You should either try to get something from the Council to give assurance in this matter or take out insurance as suggested.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
How do I insulate my cob, thatched property?
FROM:
Eddy Pearce
(Dorset)

Insulating our thatched cob house...

Our Grade 2 thatched house recently suffered a very serious fire which has left us with a total rebuild apart from the surviving stone and cob walls. It seems like a great opportunity to improve the insulation of the house.

Windows: The listing will prevent the use of double glazing and from research I 'm happy that we can achieve acceptable window insulation using decent secondary glazing and shutters. Any other thoughts or recommendations?

Roof: The thatched roof will be replaced using the Dorset Method. We would like to add additional insulation to the roof but I'm aware of the issue re condensation ventilation? What is the best option here?

Walls: Our walls are generally stone up to head height then cob above. Is there anything that we can do here?

Floors: We are looking at replacing some existing concrete floors with limecrete with under-floor heating. Can you point us in the direction of information re how to maximise the insulating properties of limecrete floors?

Eddy Pearce

The problem of insulating historic buildings is a common issue at present. Whilst many local authorities will resist the use of double glazing many will accept secondary glazing and this together with good draught proofing heavy curtains etc. should provide good levels of insulation.

There is a move towards allowing double glazing in historic buildings in certain situations and then only if the windows have deteriorated to the point of needing replacement anyway. I cannot see any Council allowing sound windows in a historic building to be replaced simply for insulation purposes at present. Different Local Authorities have different approaches to this.

I have no other recommendation than the above if your Council will not yet allow double glazing. This does not mean to say that I am necessarily in favour of double glazing in every instance and I still have my reservations as to whether double glazing really provides the benefits claimed. My view is that you will do almost as well if not as well by good secondary glazing and draught proofing and heavy curtains. If the present windows are sound the only option open to you is secondary glazing, etc.

With regard to the thatched roof you need to be guided by those dealing with the thatch etc. Thatch itself can provide a reasonable level of insulation but it depends on the thickness of the thatch and the type of thatch as to how much insulation. Very recently English Heritage has produced some guidance on this. If you go to the English Heritage climate change website and look at their publications page there is a free download of the guidance on this - www.climatechangeandyourhome.org.uk/live/insulating_thatched_roofs.aspx .

Generally speaking it is advisable to insulate a thatched roof rather than just relying on the thatch itself. There is the potential problem of condensation etc. and the matter of how it is insulated and ventilated needs to be carefully considered. Without knowing the precise nature of the construction I cannot give specific guidance on this. There is the question of whether you could form an insulated ceiling but this is something your architect or surveyor dealing with the scheme will need to consider further.

The walls are more difficult to deal with. Without knowing how they are finished externally or internally I cannot say whether or not there is any potential to insulate them. If they are stone they will be quite thick and will provide a degree of heat store. There is some progress in the creation of insulating lime plasters renders and you could consider these. A local supplier to you would be Mike Wye (www.mikewye.co.uk). You could speak to him about a form of insulated lime plaster or render

Again I suggest you speak to Mike Wye about limecrete floors etc. Another good source of information for lime products limecrete floors etc. would be the Old House Store (www.oldhousestore.co.uk - based near Oxford) or Ty Mawr (www.lime.org.uk - based in Wales).

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Do I need listed building consent for the removal & subsequent repair of a balcony off-site?
FROM:
Daragh McGinty
(Bristol)

I live in a Grade II Listed Georgian property (c. 1790). The wrought iron balcony adjoining the first floor is in a state of disrepair. A piece of the decorative ironwork is missing but can be replaced by copying other pieces, and one of the rails needs replacing. In general the whole piece needs stripping back and repainting. A local wrought iron balcony specialist has inspected and confirmed that the balcony would need to be taken away for him to carry out the repairs and then brought back and re-fitted. I also want to fit some wood decking to the platform (a nearby Georgian terrace has iron balconies with wood decked platforms). Is any of this likely to require Listed Building consent? The local balcony specialist who inspected thinks consent may not be required as he has experience of a similar job where it was not required.

Daragh McGinty

Generally the work you describe would seem to be repair and would not normally require listed building consent. The slight exception to this is perhaps the decking you mention.

My concern would be that if a Conservation Officer were to see the railing being taken away this might raise concerns and you might find yourself speaking with an enforcement officer on the doorstep if they know nothing about the work. My advice therefore is to consult the Conservation Officer at an early stage to explain what is being undertaken and to seek guidance on whether it needs consent and if so which elements of it need consent. It is better that the CO is aware of the work prior to you starting in case a neighbour reports the work or the officer happens to be passing one day and becomes concerned about the missing railings etc.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
How do I make a planning application representation if the 21 day deadline has passed?
FROM:
Ambrin Dar
(Yorkshire)

What can I do if the 21 day deadline to make a representation against a planning application by a neighbour has passed?

I own a stone built, detached grade II listed house in West Yorkshire. I had been unwell and unable to get to my house for the past two and a half months. To my horror yesterday I opened a letter which was a notice of planning application made by a neighbour to make a two storey extension to their property; deadline to respond or make a representation, 29th Jan 2010. Everyone I have spoken to has said it is too late to stop the building work proceeding. I haven 't yet spoken to the planning officer concerned as I only found out on Friday evening. To my further distress, on asking my other neighbour whether they knew anything about it, she informed me that they had started digging two days ago. Their house is situated just behind the back boundary wall of my main garden which is situated to the left hand side of my house if facing it. They are erecting this two storey extension in their garden which shares my back boundary wall. Their house was already situated in close proximity to my house and garden. The privacy of my garden and third bedroom which were already compromised will now be intolerable. My understanding is that the boundary walls of my house (original and? pre-1850) are also listed. How can they have approved the planning for a structure that is going to be horribly close to my wall and listed building. I am already worried that they may have weakened or destabilised the wall by digging so close to it and also damaged the roots of a tree on my side. I am really shocked that they have approved this application; surely the council would check that the extension doesn't negatively impact on the structure and setting of a grade II listed building. I read on Times online that building near a listed building does mean consideration is given to the effect on the setting of the listed property. I would greatly appreciate your advice on what can be done to stop this building work permanently spoiling the setting of this beautiful house which I feel I have let down.

Ambrin Dar

Unfortunately it does seem that you are now too late to make representations about the planning issues. Although you did not make representation the Council were duty bound to consider the impact of the work on neighbouring properties including any listed structures etc. The Council's Conservation Officer would normally have been consulted. You could enquire as to whether the proper processes were followed and if the Council have failed you could go to the Local Authority Ombudsman. Unfortunately this does nothing to change the fact that planning permission has been granted and the work has commenced.

I therefore doubt if you can do anything to stop what has now been granted.

In terms of the actual works however, you could consider whether the Party Wall Act applies and if so ask your neighbour to serve appropriate notices etc. The party wall matters may now be more important than the planning issues because I doubt you will be able to do anything about planning but in terms of the party wall and the impact on your building during the process of the development is something that you can deal with.

I am sorry to be the bearer of what seems to be bad news in that I doubt you will be able to do anything about the planning that has now been approved but you might be able to do something about the actual process of the work and the impact on your building during the development.

If you are still unhappy about this reply regarding the planning matters I suggest you speak to a specialist planning consultant.

If you wish to pursue matters with regard to the Party Wall Act you will note that on the Period Property UK website there are links to further advice on party wall matters and you could also look at the website of Pyramus and Thisbe (www.partywalls.org )

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.