Grandmother ordered to demolish extension that cost life savings

The extension and garden makover set for demoliton

Nicola Graham-O'Connor, a grandmother from Quinton in Birmingham, lavished her £11,000 life savings on improving her home. She added a canopy, pillars and railings that make her home stand out impressively from those of her neighbours. She says she even called the council before she started to check it would be OK. However, the council insists she must rip it all down.

49-year-old Nicola told the Daily Mail that she spoke to the council three years ago - before she did any of the work. She was reassured that none of it required planning permission, so she went ahead and replaced the garden and lawn with a canopy, 8-foot tall pillars, sweeping stone steps and 5-foot metal railings.

However, The Mirror reported that three weeks after the building was completed, someone made an anonymous complaint to the council. It informed Nicola that the building was out of keeping with the area. It demanded that she remove the extension, and reduce the height of the railings and pillars by 2 feet. It insists that she didn't contact them before starting the work - let alone tell them the extent of the building she planned.

She says she doesn't have the money for a demolition, and will borrow from fiends and family so she can fight the demolition order.


This kind of misunderstanding of the rules is all-too-common. The good news is that there is a right to appeal demolition orders, and in some cases people win, often if they agree to make certain changes. Citizens Advice can talk you through the process of appealing and the steps you need to take.

Unfortunately, winning is far from certain. Cases where demolition orders are overturned tend to include those where people are prepared to make dramatic changes to the building, and those where there was some sort of administrative failure - so permission should have been granted in the first place.

Where people simply think the ruling is unfair, there's less chance of success. One of the most well-known efforts to beat a demolition order was undertaken by Robert Fidler, a 67-year-old farmer from Salfords in Surrey, who built a mock-Tudor castle in 2000 and hid it behind hay bales in an effort to get around planning rules. He failed, and was ordered to pull it down in 2007. For the next nine years he battled against the ruling using every available legal argument - before finally being forced to pull it down this year.

You can't afford to just ignore it either. We reported in May on the couple who built a tall fence from tree stumps, and after a neighbour complained, they were ordered to demolish it. They refused, and were eventually fined £60, both members of the couple had to pay costs of £285 each, and there was a £20 surcharge. On top of that, they had to pay to take the fence down and replace it.

But what do you think? Is this order fair? Let us know in the comments.

Nightmare neighbours
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Nightmare neighbours

Gerard and Christina White from Moseley in Birmingham hit the headlines in September last year, when their neighbour ignored his planning permission, and built so close to their house that they said it effectively turned their detached property into a semi-detached one.

Despite the fact it left them unable to maintain the side of their property, the council washed their hands of the case, and said the couple would have to take private legal action if they wanted the extension to be pulled down.

Helen Coughlan, a 52-year-old carer from Woodford Bridge in north east London, was stunned when her neighbours built an extension just 24 inches from her window - completely obscuring her view.

Despite the fact she says it took £100,000 off the value of the home, and rendered it unsellable, the council said it could do nothing to force the demolition of the new extension.

In 2013, a row that had been rumbling for 17 years finally came to court. One of the neighbours had planted eight conifer trees in his front garden, and ignored repeated requests to cut them back to allow natural light into his neighbour’s home.

He was eventually forced to by a court - after the trees had caused a crack to appear in his neighbour’s wall.

Wendy and Paul Collins from Brownhills in the West Midlands watched in horror as their neighbours erected a six foot fence at the bottom of their front garden, blocking their front gate and leaving their car stranded on their front lawn.

Their home faces onto a car park serving a block of flats, and the owners of the flats erected the fence to stop the couple driving through the car park in order to park on their front lawn. The couple can still access their house through the back - and have a drive round the other side of the house - unfortunately their car is stuck on the lawn.

A Michigan man who had been through a bitter divorce, decided to get his revenge on his ex-wife by moving in next door.

As soon as he had moved in, he erected a 12 foot statue in the front garden, of a hand giving the finger. The statue is even lit up at night.

In May last year, Steven and Fiona Young from Blawith were ordered to pay their neighbours, Peter and Lesley Raymond, £600,000, after a campaign of harassment.

The Youngs had lived in a large farmhouse, but decades earlier sold up and moved to a smaller property next door. The Raymonds moved into the farmhouse and the Youngs became nightmare neighbours.

They piled rubbish in the garden, damaged fences, let animals foul their garden, and rode quad bikes over the grounds. When the Raymonds installed CCTV, Mr Young mooned them, and then painted over them.

The Raymonds sued for harassment, trespass, nuisance, assault and slander - and were awarded £200,000. The Youngs also had to pay £400,000 costs.


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