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We recently received a letter from a large property company thanking us for notifying them in advance that one of our Clients was intending to submit a planning application for alterations to their apartment. They went on to tell us how rare it is that they are notified.

Project Management, Construction management

This surprised us for two reasons. Firstly as the planning application requires the Applicant to notify anyone else who has an interest in the property and secondly because surely it is courteous if you are a leaseholder, to advise the freeholder of your plans within a building which they technically own!

A not inconsiderable part of many surveyors workload, is dealing with property disputes, ill feeling between owners and  the breakdown of hitherto cordial neighbour relations. It strikes me that much of this bad blood is avoidable.

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By engaging with your neighbours prior to the submission of a planning application they have the opportunity to feel engaged in the process. It may also be that you can deal with any concerns that they have prior to the application being submitted.

If you fail to do this then your neighbour may take the view that they cannot discuss the matter directly with you and therefore their only outlet for expressing their views is by way of a letter to the local planning authority. The content of their letter could influence whether your planning application is successful or not.

I find the same situation happens regularly with party wall matters where owners plan a development and the first the neighbours know is when they receive a party wall notice or are notified of a planning application by the local authority.

In a party wall context they are far more likely to dissent the notices and thereby force you to instruct surveyors to prepare and serve a Party Wall Award, an excercise which will involve additional cost and time.

For my Clients who feel uncomfortable with contacting their neighbours, I offer to do it for them. I will happily contact them and discuss the proposals and offer to visit them in order that I can help them understand what is proposed and address any concerns they have.

To me this is a sensible way which will not only assist in neighbourly relations but also enhance your chances of gaining the result you are after with the minimum of fuss.

My only confusion is why, according to the firm we received a letter from, more firms don’t do it!