Monday, 5 September 2011

And what did you do today?

Today was the first real day of my retirement from teaching ... and I have not had time to think because I have had so much to do!

Firstly, I sorted out my accounts. Not a long job, but one that has to be done each month ... and one that should really have been done last week.

Secondly, I wrote a very long and detailed letter of complaint to the local planning inspectors.

Some three years ago my next door neighbour put a balustrade around the edge of the flat roof on his ground floor extension. This was specifically forbidden under the terms of the planning permission given by the local council … but he still went ahead and did it. This now means that anyone who goes onto the roof (which is now a de facto balcony) can look straight into the rear first floor bedroom of our house. I politely asked him to remove the balustrade … but he refused, citing Health and Safety regulations ‘in case someone had to work on the roof’ as the reason why he had put it up. I checked with the Health and Safety Executive, and they told me that there was no requirement for such a balustrade.

I then wrote to my neighbour requesting that he remove the offending structure and warning him that I would be notifying the local council planning enforcement team about what he had done… and my letter was ignored. I finally spoke to him, and he gave me a verbal agreement to remove the balustrade ‘as soon as I have the time’.

Six months later it was still there.

I then reported the matter to the local council planning enforcement team, and was told that they would get back to me as soon as they could.

They did not.

I contacted them again in July 2010, and this time they acknowledged my report with a letter. The letter had a caveat that such matters took time for them to investigate, but that it was being dealt with.

Another six months went by, but nothing seemed to have been done, so I contacted them again. All I got was a copy of their original letter. I tried contacting them by telephone, but all I talked to was the team’s voicemail system, and none of my requests for a return ‘phone call were heeded.

Today I had had enough. I took several pictures of the offending structure, and sent them – with an accompanying letter and copies of the original planning permission and detailed elevation drawings of the extension without a balustrade – to the local council planning enforcement team. I have set them a deadline of ten working days to get back to me otherwise I intend to take the matter to a higher authority. Hopefully this might actually get them to do something … but somehow I doubt it.

A short aside: Since my neighbour – who happens to be a builder – erected the balustrade, he has also built a wooden office and created a small builders yard at the end of his garden. This has been done without planning permission as the area is zoned as residential only. He has further compounded this by starting work on a single storey extension to the bungalow he also owns on the plot of land on the other side of his garden. As far as I can find out, this has also been done without planning permission.

Having vented my spleen, I then went to the local branch of my bank to arrange an interview about my mortgage. I expected that this would take a matter of minutes. It did … thirty five of them! First I had to queue to talk to someone about what I wanted to do. I then had to sit in the waiting area whilst they tried to find someone else to deal with me. Eventually they did … but then the computerised appointments system would not work! In the end I did manage to arrange an appointment for next Friday. I only hope that they do not keep me waiting as long next time.

After lunch I completed a ten-page application form to become a part-time examination invigilator at a local school. (My wife thinks that it will be good for me to earn some pocket money doing this sort of work … and who am I to argue!) This was actually longer than any of the forms I ever had to complete for a teaching job (including my application to become a Deputy Headteacher), and included details of my schooling right back to 1961! Just getting all the necessary information together and filling in the form took over two hours so I hope that it will be worth it in the end.

So that was my first day of retirement. Busy or what? And I had no time to even think about wargaming, let alone do any!

I hope tomorrow is going to be a bit more relaxing, but somehow I don’t think that it will be.


  1. Bob,
    from loads of experience, I can tell you the palnners wont move quickly. My concern would be that your neighbour has gone or is going for retrospective planning consent.
    I would check the councils planning portal re this just in case. Be prepared for some chew. If you dont get help, threaten the palnners with the ombudsmen, a toothless tiger but they get marked down for such enquiries.
    Thanks Robbie

  2. Rob3rod,

    Thanks for the advice.

    The planners in our area tend to be tough on violations ... when they get round to it ... and will not allow any leeway in normal circumstances.

    For example, some years ago they asked us if we wanted a newly built house in the next street to be knocked down because it was not built from yellow London Stock bricks (which are no longer manufactured) as per their permission. It had been built of modern yellow bricks instead. No one objected, so it was allowed to remain. A couple of objections would have meant that the building would have had to have been demolished.

    In the case of my own house extension, it had to be built from reclaimed yellow London Stock bricks ... including the area that was rendered over 'just in case' the render was removed at a later date.

    I have spent quite some time going through the council's online requests for planning permission, and none of the changes my neighbour has made have been granted any form of planning permission nor has any such permission been requested.

    I don't expect that this is going to be sorted out quickly, but sorted out it is going to be!

    All the best,


  3. Where I live on the outskirts of Wimbledon, one of the ugliest buildings desecrating the view from a charming 1920's suburban estate is...

    Merton Council HQ/aka Crown House.

  4. Arthur1815,

    Ah, the joys of civic architecture!

    Greenwich Council has just demolished it's old 1970s main administration building ... and is replacing it with a modern office block that looks equally ugly! Luckily, they have left the old Town Hall alone, which is actually a prime example of late nineteenth/early twentieth century brick-built civic architecture.

    All the best,


  5. Here's a thought - maybe he would have been willing to build you a 5 star gaming facility for 25% of the price - you know, silence is golden.

    Just a thought and yes, I know 2 wrongs don't make a right, but still..

  6. Arthur,

    He already has ... and I have been using it for some time. The big difference is that it has planning permission, unlike his balustrade, builders yard, and bungalow extension.

    All the best,