Grandmother ordered to demolish extension that cost life savings

The extension and garden makover set for demoliton
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.

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