Q: I live in one of eight houses that have faced open ground since their construction in the 1980s. Beyond the open ground is protected woodland sloping to a disused railway track walk. In 2013 planning permission was granted for a 2-storey house that still afforded us the woodland views. However, the owner added another storey without permission. He also erected 3m high wire fencing that encroached onto the road. We contacted the council several times, informing them what was going on and how the site was an eyesore.
A year later they issued an enforcement order which the owner ignored. Eventually the planners sent in bulldozers and the landowner has not been seen since. Three years on we still look out on an overgrown rubble site, and passing vehicles have to pull out around the fence. Worse, our property values have dropped. Could we, the owners of the eight houses, sue the planning department for allowing this to happen?
A: It does sound as if the local authority could have acted sooner and, more effectively, It would however be a complex case to bring as the local authority would undoubtedly argue that the landowner is the one responsible and that they did take enforcement action.
In the first instance you should gather as much evidence as possible and put together a timeline of events. Include notices you received in respect of the planning application and public copies of the application and permission granted. Planning permission is normally required for a fence or wall over 2 metres or 1 metre if it borders or adjoins a public highway used for vehicles. It could be argued that the council was remiss in allowing the fence to be erected and remain for several years. As negligence claims must usually be brought within six years you should present the full facts and consult with a solicitor for advice as soon as possible.
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