Forced to knock down a wall in his own garden

Garry Painter forced to knock down a wall in his own garden by council

Garry Painter, a 54-year-old landscape gardener from Bromsgrove, has been ordered to knock down a wall around his garden that he built six years ago. The council ruled that it is obstructing the road.

How can this be fair?


Painter had built the wall on his land when he gave his garden a makeover in 2007. The Daily Mail reported that he had moved into a barn conversion and spent £4,000 tidying up the plot of land next to it - laying turf and building a wall.

He told the Birmingham Mail that: "This small pocket of land is registered to us and is outlined by the Land Registry's official plan of which we hold many copies."

However, the council told him that he must take up the turf and knock down the wall, as it is obstructing the public highway. Apparently, although he owns the land, part of it has traditionally been a public highway, which means that he has a duty not to build on it, so that motorists and pedestrians can use it.

When he pointed out that he owned the land, they sent a letter to his solicitor saying: "The ownership is worthless to your client as it relates to the subsoil ownership only and does not supercede any highways rights that exist over the surface."

After a four-year legal battle the council has ordered him to knock the wall down. If he doesn't comply, the council will employ a contractor to do it and he will receive the bill. He told the Daily Mail he is seeking an injunction.

Don't risk your prized possessions – get a home insurance quote now

Your rights

Surprisingly, the council is technically correct. In fact, the council rarely owns the land which roads runs over. Many people own the land up to the middle of the road outside their property. However, they only own the subsoil, so control of the land and the surface lies with the council (acting in their capacity as the highways authority). It's why we cannot extend our gardens out over the middle of the road.

In this instance the circumstances are strange because the land is on a highway which is no longer used as such. However, the rules on ownership remain: "Once a highway – always a highway" is the legal rule.

The council may be within its rights to insist that the garden is demolished, the question is whether it was right to enforce those rights given that the area isn't actually used as a highway at all any more, and Painter has improved its appearance dramatically.

The people who affect house prices
See Gallery
Forced to knock down a wall in his own garden

They have the power to push a price higher, depending on how many other people are in the running for a home and how liberal they want to be with the truth to the buyers. In some cases, they can also do more harm than good by initially overvaluing a property. The worst case scenario is the home eventually sells for less than it would have done had it been priced realistically in the first place.

Sometimes a quick-moving solicitor can be the difference between getting the home at the price you want and getting into a bidding war or missing out entirely. If the buyer needs a quick sale, they're more likely to do a deal with someone who has a flexible solicitor who can push through the sale so it suits them.

Research by Halifax concluded that anti-social neighbours could take £31,000 off the price of an average home. If you’re selling, you should declare any problems you’ve had on a Seller’s Property Information Form, otherwise you could face a claim later on.

While an increase in Council Tax might not be too much of a deterrent to a potential buyer, plans to grant permission for new homes, a mobile phone mast or wind turbines could knock an asking price down. If you're a buyer, the local council should have details of any future planning applications and you can search them for a small fee.

A lot of traffic in an area obviously has an effect on air quality. Since 1997 each local authority in the UK has carried out studies of the air quality in its area. If an area falls below a national benchmark for air quality, it has to be declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Some residents of the Llandaff area of Cardiff expressed concern that it had become an AQMA due to an increase in traffic in the area. Whether this becomes a widespread issue remains to be seen.

Mortgage availability is a key driver of property prices. If no-one can take out a mortgage, then prices will stall and eventually fall. We've seen this happen in parts of the UK in recent years, as lenders tightened up their criteria following the credit crunch. Conversely, good mortgage availability will mean more people are competing for properties - to a seller's advantage if their home is desirable.

An outstanding local school can add around 8% to the value of a home, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. On the flipside, a not so good Ofsted report can take off a similar amount. If you’re concerned about a school’s performance, one way to get involved is to become a governor.

Initiatives such as the Help To Buy scheme have been credited with pushing house prices up. A buoyant economy with strong employment gives people the confidence to buy and leads to an upward shift in house prices, while rises in unemployment have the reverse effect. Planning restrictions, at both a national and local government level, affect the number of homes in a particular area.

Read Full Story