The developer of our new home refuses to level the garden, and it is full of debris

Property Clinic: Planning permission may restrict the builder levelling the garden

Dublin 24 is in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains and on naturally sloping ground.  Photograph: iStock

Dublin 24 is in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains and on naturally sloping ground. Photograph: iStock

 

Q: We recently bought a new-build house in a housing estate in Dublin 24. We find that our rear garden is inclined. In fact, all houses in our row have their gardens inclined. We have approached the developer asking if they can address this problem. Most of us have also flagged this issue in our snag reports early on.

However, the developer’s reply from the beginning has been that the building regulations does not permit them to level gardens which are naturally inclined. Is this true? We are not sure about this. Any advice will be very useful for us.

Furthermore, our garden is filled with a lot of stone chips and even a lot of rocks and bricks which the developer refuses to clear up. How we can approach the developer, and what are our options?

A: Someone once said that the Flat Earth Society has enthusiastic members all over the globe. In my native Co Cavan, the drumlins play havoc with the desire to have a flat garden. Attempts to achieve this can lead to unsightly bites out of the landscape and high ugly retaining walls. In all good design the building forms and proposed estate layout will adapt to the receiving natural environment rather than shoehorning a new uniform development in by altering nature.

Your concern relates to an inclined garden. In Dublin 24 you are in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains and on naturally sloping ground. The fact that all the neighbouring properties also have sloping gardens suggests to me that the developer has followed the natural falls of the ground. This is to be commended. However, this does make gardens that are small difficult to use in a practical way. Sites that rise away from the front door can be risky. I’ve seen properties damaged where car handbrakes have inadvertently been left off.

The planning permission under which the houses are being built is unlikely to permit significant alteration of the existing ground levels. The only building regulation that deals with sloping ground is Part M. This is concerned with access and use. The objective is to provide an adequate means of approach to the main entrance of a dwelling to facilitate visitors from a point of access. There are restrictions on the gradient that can be provided on the main approach to a dwelling.

There is no building regulation that would prevent the developer raising the level of the garden but there would be a restriction under planning permission. It is unlikely that the developer would be granted permission to raise the levels significantly above original ground level.

You mention that there are rocks and bricks in the garden. I assume that your desire to have these removed would have been included on your snag list. Regrettably, there is a lot of waste on building sites and topsoil can become contaminated with bricks and the like. I can see no reason for the builder not to remove these. Typically, a garden will be cleared and seeded, and you should check the specifications in this regard. Your chartered surveyor who completed the snag list will be familiar with the finish promised, and you should check with them to see what was agreed.

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

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