Stunned homeowners told houses to be demolished

The letter

150 families in the Hampshire village of Stubbington were horrified to receive letters telling them their houses were to be demolished in order to make way for a bypass. They were informed that the land was being compulsorily purchased, and that if they didn't agree to sell their properties to a contractor for demolition they would face legal action. This was the first that any of them had heard of the proposals, and they were given just 14 days to respond.

But what happened next shocked them all.
The council informed them it had all been a horrible mistake.

According to the Daily Mail, Hampshire County Council intended for these letters to go to a handful of landowners who are affected by the road. Some of their land will be purchased, but no homes will have to be demolished.

However a terrible error within the planning department meant that 150 letters were produced and set in error to people who weren't actually affected by the new road.

The council spent the weekend sending letters of apology for the distress caused. A council member told the Portsmouth News: "I would like to apologise to residents who received letters and for any distress this may have caused. A breakdown of communication between the council and the consultants led to an inaccurate letter being mistakenly issued."

The council is investigating how it happened, but this isn't the first demolition that hasn't gone entirely to plan.

Accidentally demolished

Things went even more awry this summer in Fort Worth, Texas, when a demolition team got confused, and demolished the wrong house. They were supposed to knock down the house next door, but because the couple hadn't moved into their new home yet, the team assumed the empty property was the one slated for demolition.

The same fate befell a homeowner in Dallas. The property had been on a list of properties set for demolition, but plans changed and it was supposed to have been removed from the list. The property was sold at auction this summer, and the owner had started renovations. Unfortunately it was never removed from the list, so one day he arrived to continue work and discovered the entire house had gone.

In September a man in Michigan devised a cunning plan to save his home from demolition: he swapped house numbers with a neighbour. It initially worked as the crew demolished his neighbour's house instead. However, on discovering their mistake they returned and demolished the right house too.

And it's not just planning departments that get the wrong address. In October we reported on the family from Gorton in Manchester, who returned from holiday to find their home stripped. They called the police, only to discover that a housing association had done the work - after a contractor was sent to another house on the street and misread the house numbers.

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The people who affect house prices
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Stunned homeowners told houses to be demolished

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.


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