My neighbour’s playhouse overlooks my kitchen – what can I do?

Your property queries answered

The problem with playhouses: The latest issue of Hello magazine shows Tamara Ecclestone showing off her daughter’s palatial playhouse, which is a replica of Ecclestone’s 57-room Kensington mansion. But what happens when it overlooks the neighbour’s property? Photograph: Hello! Magazine/PA

The problem with playhouses: The latest issue of Hello magazine shows Tamara Ecclestone showing off her daughter’s palatial playhouse, which is a replica of Ecclestone’s 57-room Kensington mansion. But what happens when it overlooks the neighbour’s property? Photograph: Hello! Magazine/PA

 

I would like to know can a neighbour build a playhouse that looks directly into my back garden. The wall between us is 7ft high and the new playhouse goes up another 5ft overlooking my property into the garden and into my kitchen. Can something be done about this as it is invading the privacy of our home? It is only 15ft away from our patio doors and windows.

This is a very interesting question, quite a technical and precise one, but there is a factual answer, provided of course that one has the full facts of the situation.

The question is to do with planning permission. In essence development in, on or under land generally requires planning permission: however, there are certain exemptions where one can carry out certain development works without the need for planning permission. For example, one can generally build a 40m sq (430.55sq ft) extension to the back of a dwelling house provided, of course, that they comply with certain limitations / restrictions.

The issue here is whether or not the construction of a children’s playhouse constitutes development and whether or not it falls within the exempted development category. Firstly, I can clearly advise that the construction of a children’s playhouse does constitute development.

The second issue relates to the size and nature of the development, and whether or not this constitutes exempted development.

The exempted development is clearly stated within part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and a children’s playhouse actually falls under Class 3, and in our opinion comes under the definition of “other object”.

However, the other object, or the children’s playhouse in this case, is subject to certain limitations and constraints including the location of the structure, ie it must not be erected or placed forward of the front wall of a house, the size, ie it must not exceed 25sq m, must not reduce the amount of private open space reserved to less than 25sq m, and should not exceed 3m in height or 4m if there is a tiled or slated pitched roof.

If the children’s playhouse falls within all of these categories, then it would be considered exempted development and there is not really much that you can do about this.

However, if the playhouse falls outside of these requirements, then you could bring this matter up with the Local Authority on the basis of unauthorised development and the neighbour will either have to remove the unauthorised development or seek permission by way of retention to have this retained.

If they opt for the latter approach, you will then have the opportunity to lodge an appeal to the planning application.

Given the level of precision required in a matter of this nature, you should seek specific advice from your local chartered building surveyor.

Val O’Brien is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

Heating pipe leak

We have recently found out that our central heating piping is leaking. We have an expansion vessel in the boilerhouse and the water level is reducing constantly and has to be re-filled regularly. The house is 35 years old and the pipes are the old gun barrel and all the downstairs floors are cement. There is no leak upstairs as all ceilings are okay.

One plumber suggests bringing pipes down from upstairs in the corner in the lounge but these would have to be connected to five radiators. The kitchen radiator is beside the boilerhouse and could be connected direct. A garage conversion some 10 years ago had more up-to-date piping and is fine.

The second plumber isn’t in favour of bringing piping from upstairs and suggests digging up from the garage conversion radiator, through the hall and into the lounge. The carpet in the lounge could be removed but the hall has solid wood flooring and this would be destroyed.

At this stage I am totally confused as to what to get done and any advice or suggestions would be greatly welcomed.

Steel “gun barrel” heating pipework was often installed in domestic property during the 1970s and 1980s due to its robust nature and the perceived higher cost of copper alternative. It is still used in commercial property today and, if treated correctly with an inhibitor, it will seldom fail from internal corrosion. The problem occurs when the steel pipe is allowed to rust from the outside in damp areas, in your case this might be the problem if pipes are buried in the concrete ground floor.

Before you embark on an expensive refit of pipes, routes and the inevitable repairs to finishes it is essential that you prioritise discovery of exactly where the problem lies, establish that the pipe work has not degraded internally and that the inhibitor in the system is still active. This may not be the case if your leak has persisted over a long time because any corrosion inhibitor will have been diluted too much, in which situation you must consider a complete renewal of all your system including the heat emitters or radiators and not just a localised “by pass” because all elements will have rusted internally causing ongoing sequential failures around the house.

If the inhibitor remains active and the pipes and radiators are generally sound, then you must find the specific location of the leak. This can be done by using an infra-red camera which will reveal the colder area where dampness is present even under finishes, or, by pressure testing each section. Once discovered you can then repair this pipe locally with minimal damage to finishes or need to bypass the area with new pipes in inappropriate places.

Heating systems have improved dramatically since the 1980s and there are now many alternative possibilities in the event you have to renew the system completely. Modern systems are much more efficient and coupled with insulation upgrades they can pay for themselves from the savings in energy costs and improved comfort levels within a few years. So it is well worth investigating a radical rethink of how you heat your house if you have reached that critical stage with your old system.

Consider obtaining grant assistance; the better homes scheme run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland for example is worth checking out on the SEAI website.

Ventilation as well as heat is key to a healthy home, but it is also where a lot of heat can be lost, so look carefully at the need for replacing radiators. If your home is well insulated and sealed, you might evaluate shutting off or isolating the failed zone and installing a heat recovery ventilation system which can redistribute heat from other areas at relatively low cost in some situations with great improvement to air quality and healthy comfort as well as saving considerable energy otherwise lost.

Fergus Merriman is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

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