Q: A field behind my house has become a construction site for thirty new homes. The land naturally slopes down towards my garden. Following recent torrential rain, a large pool formed on the other side of my fence and seeped underneath it. This part of the site is to remain an ‘open area’. I contacted the developer who said they had ‘dug a temporary ditch’ on their land for the water to soak away and ultimately a ‘pond’ would be constructed that would act as a soak-away. I believe the bottom of my fence will go rotten because of it and my garden could be ruined. Also, who takes responsibility when the development is finished? What can I do?
A: If the landowner knows there is a natural hazard on his land, then he has a duty to take action to minimize or prevent the hazard from causing foreseeable harm to neighbouring property. However, the situation you describe is tricky in that the developer could argue that by digging a temporary ditch and planning a soak-away pool long-term, he is minimising the hazard that could affect you.
To bring a case against the developer you would need to prove the extent of the flood risk and whether if a flood occurred your property would be damaged. You would also need to ascertain whether the flood risk has been caused by the development, for example is it due to natural drainage being replaced by concrete and tarmac? And you should ascertain whether any practicable solution could address the risk, for example a barrier to contain the pond water on the neighbouring site.
If the developer refuses to co-operate, you should seek legal advice as to the viability of bringing a claim against him. A solicitor can help you compile evidence, appoint specialist flood advisors, and aim to help you achieve an early out-of-court settlement or issue legal proceedings if all else fails.
This question has been answered by Robert Williams, a Partner with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194