So, for those of you don’t know… I live in a pokey little basement flat in central London… 5 minutes’ walk away from the office. It’s terribly convenient and how much space do we really need when we live in a 15-minute neighbourhood? Idyllic!
The other morning at 06.05am (a most unsociable hour) we were awoken by a loud thump. Living cheek-by-jowl in London this is not the most unusual of things to happen… what was unusual was the sound that followed… a loud crash! Unmistakably the sound of bricks breaking. Now, the house was built in 1801 and you know, sometimes bits drop off. So, I flew out of bed to investigate.
I was absolutely astonished to find in the back garden (totally enclosed without any access apart from through the flat), three burly builders complete with large hammers standing by the back garden wall (also built around 1800) where they had come through a freshly created gaping hole. Now, I had better explain here that we are on the main street and behind us is the mews where the old stables had been sold off decades ago and turned into houses. This “garden wall” is also the back wall of the mews house.
I charged over and demanded to know what they are doing. A burly builder informed me that they are installing windows. Two of them. Large windows. Looking straight into the garden and the house (the garden is about 8 meters long). Being a bit of an expert in these things, I demanded they cease work immediately as I had NOT been consulted and I most certainly had not seen any planning permission granted for this. In my other hand, I had my mobile phone with my local Councillor on speed-dial. By the time burly builder got the foreman through the hole, I had spoken to the Councillor and Camden Council’s enforcement officer was as good as on the way with a stop order.
None of us had been consulted, not us, not my neighbour, not the Councillors. No one. The foreman insisted that they had permission to do this from the Council. Naturally I demanded paperwork which of course he didn’t have with him. I then hit the planning portal to search… and there it was. Delegated approval for “high level windows” (did I mention it is Grade II* listed and we can’t have double glazing?). All the boxes neatly ticked… no objections from anyone, not even the conservation officer…(though the party wall agreement was not signed with our landlord, so there is hope!)
To be very honest, I am a tenant and frankly we could plant a shrub or two and the one window is actually behind the shed so it is hardly the end of the world and won’t actually impact on us. The mews neighbour will have a much better quality of life in these dark dingy rooms at the back of the house. But I did go “Not In My Back Yard” because no one bothered to ask me or tell me. I blame the shock.
Moral of the story? Bad communication makes NIMBYs of all of us!
Until next week!