Can my neighbour stop me from building an extension?

 

As the poet once said, good fences make good neighbours. But sometimes people just don’t get on. Living near others can create envy, and conflicts over small things can spill over.

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As the poet once said, good fences make good neighbours. But sometimes people just don’t get on. Living near others can create envy, and conflicts over small things can spill over.

Occasional tension can turn into full-blown disagreements, especially when there are strong differences of opinion over plans for home improvement.  Sadly it’s not uncommon for a neighbour to take issue with a home extension, and attempt to stop you from shaping your home the way you’d like.

But can a neighbour really kill your plans for a home extension? The short answer is ‘it’s possible.’ The longer answer is more complicated.

If your extension plans encroach in certain ways on the properties that border yours, it’s possible your neighbour or neighbours could convince the council to stop you. The best way to avoid conflict is always to try and talk it out — but what if the differences can’t be reconciled?

To avoid getting sandbagged by regulations or lawsuits, it’s essential to know what councils take into consideration when a dispute arises. Let’s look at some of the basics.

 

Why would a neighbour contest my extension?

There are numerous reasons why neighbours might object to your extension plans, but there are four issues that typically trigger disputes:

  1. You’ll be shading their property or blocking their view.

    If that’s the case, it’s considered a valid reason to contest the extension. If your own garden or sunroom were suddenly blocked from the sun, you’d probably object.

  2. The work will take a long time.

    If the extension is large and extensive, then the build will likely take weeks to finish. That means noise and disruption for an extended period.

  3. Privacy will be impacted.

    If the extension has a window that overlooks your neighbour’s property, they might see it as an invasion of privacy.

  4. Housing prices will be affected.

    If an extension comes close to your neighbour’s property line, it might affect the value of their house on the property market. Proximity to other buildings is used in estate agent calculations of what a property is worth.

 

The importance of planning permission

 

Some extensions need planning permission from the local authority. If the extension is small and doesn’t have any of the triggers described above, you might be OK — but it’s always a good idea to check.

Here are the things councils typically look for:

  • The extension is higher than the highest point on the roof.
  • The extension is built using materials that differ from the original building.
  • The extension takes up more than half the area of the original property, including any extensions built previously.
  • Your plans require building near public roads.
  • The extension is more than a single story and aims to extend beyond the rear of the original structure by more than four metres.
  • The same goes for the height of the extension. You’ll need permission for anything exceeding four metres.

If a neighbour objects and finds that you don’t meet any of these guidelines, they could stop you in your tracks. And that’s not all. If your extension is deemed to be illegal, it will get pulled down. Your local council’s website normally has all the rules and guidelines you need to follow, so do check.

Leave yourself enough time (You would also need to allow for time for party wall agreements which could take up to 3 months or more)

Most applications for a planning variation take 7-8 weeks to reach a decision. If the extension large and extensive, you should plan for a wait of 12-13 weeks. Once approved, however, you can relax, You’ll have three years from the date of the decision to start building.

Remember that when you do apply for permission to build an extension, a notice will be posted on your property and neighbours will be notified by post. This is to allow members of the public time to comment or voice objections if they feel they will be adversely affected. Council’s typically provide a public consultation period of 21 days from the date of the notice for people to give feedback or challenge the application.

Bottom line: can a neighbour throw a wrench into my plans?

If a neighbour objects and challenges your application, you have the right to appeal. However, if the objections can be addressed with an alteration to the design of the extension, you can also opt to amend the plan accordingly and re-submit the application.

Armed with information and given the options at your disposal, it’s unlikely a neighbour could stop you entirely from building an extension. However, they can drag out the process or force you to change your plans.

Prevention is always the best defence. If it’s feasible, let neighbours know about your plans before you make an application and try to get them onside. Allow them to ask questions or voice concerns, and see if you can accommodate them. A friendly and open approach will help keep the peace, and give your plans a fighting chance for success.

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