Friday, April 24, 2015

White House Deep House Red House

In one of the most expensive and most conservative areas of London, in a small street of sober Georgian terracing, there is one house that has been painted with bright red stripes. That isn’t new information, it was prominent in local and even national press. And incidentally in time I think the new paintwork currently seen as garish and out-of-character and objectionable will come to be seen as neighbourhood attraction and slapped with a preservation order.

But the point is that the neighbours did object. Quite rightly. Not to the unplanned colours, but to the owner had wanted to build a massive basement extension, going down two whole floors of the entire property’s footprint. It would have caused massive disruption and massive mess, the houses on either side would have become virtually uninhabitable for months on end while bulldozers and diggers ploughed in.

The issue here is a planning loophole. While a party wall agreement goes a tiny way towards helping to allow for risk of structural damage, it in no way recompenses the afflicted neighbour. And that’s something that helps nobody. If at the end of the work there is minimal exterior change, as with mega basements and similar development, then planning rules become almost irrelevant. Yet it is not the end result that pees off the neighbours, it is the hell they must put up with to get there.

If there was a legal obligation to properly compensate the neighbours for that disruption then the central house owner would have been allowed to build their desired basement palace but the afflicted parties would be paid appropriately for that disruption.

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