Neighbours Succeed in Blocking Controversial Garage Extension

If a neighbour obtains planning permission for a building project to which you object, that does not always mean you just have to grin and bear it. In a case on point, objectors to a householder's plans to extend his garage succeeded in blocking his proposal despite the fact that it had received local authority approval.

Three years after moving into a five-bedroom detached house on a newly built estate, the householder, whose family owned five cars and three motorbikes, obtained planning consent to extend his garage both outwards, to provide an additional car parking space, and upwards, to create a granny flat.

The transfer by which he purchased the property from the original developer of the estate, however, included various restrictive covenants. Amongst other things, they forbade him and his neighbours on the estate from making any external additions or alterations to their properties for a period of 15 years. In reliance on that covenant, the developer refused to consent to the extension.

The householder responded by applying to the Upper Tribunal (UT) under Section 84(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925 for the covenant to be modified to the extent required to enable the extension to proceed. The application was resisted by the developer and five of the householder's neighbours on the estate.

Ruling on the matter, the UT accepted that preventing construction of the extension would not secure practical benefits of substantial advantage or value to the neighbours. Any injury to their interests arising from the development would be small and could be compensated for by a very modest award of damages.

However, the UT went on to rule that, despite the grant of planning permission, the extension would not be a reasonable use of the land concerned. If used as living accommodation, the garage's upper storey might also be a breach of a further covenant which restricted use of garages on the estate to the storage of private vehicles or items of a domestic or horticultural nature.

Previous disputes between the householder and his neighbours concerning parking issues showed that the former did not always behave reasonably. He had, amongst other things, cocked a snook at the developer by parking on the drive of its show home. The proposed extension was a breach of covenant in the making and risked giving rise to further neighbourhood disputes in the future.

The UT also noted that the covenant was only three years old and formed part of the bargain that the householder had entered into when he bought his home. To allow the extension's construction would be to deprive the developer of a significant part of its time-limited protection, which was designed to maintain the uniform appearance of the estate pending completion of further phases of the area's development. The UT dismissed the householder's application.

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