i Editor's Letter: 'Blissful urban community'


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The Independent Online


Have you ever fallen out with your neighbours? I have written before about how blessed I feel to have our new ones, and look forward to what you might call a hyper-local community evolving out of such fortunate happenstance over the years. But it could also go very wrong, very quickly.

I've been there before in a previous life on a different street, happy in an apparently blissful urban community. Then the neighbour rings, and utters the words that can prick the bubble in the space of a sentence: "I just wanted to let you know that we are planning an extension, and wanted to reassure you that it won't affect you at all."

I have been both doorbell ringer and ringee. Of course I'm sure that as the ringer I was absolutely fair and honest and sensitive to my neighbours' concerns. Just as I am sure that as the ringee, they fed me a crock. At least back then, we knew where we were with the "10 per cent of the total size of the house" extension rule. After that, there are just the usual tensions about privacy and sunlight and the mess and noise during the build – which always takes three months longer than the builder says.

Luckily, I have never had my foundations undermined by a neighbour's plan for a basement swimming pool. Largely because I have never lived in a house where you could fit in more than a hot tub.

Sometimes red tape can be our friend. With what I can make of the Government's new planning relaxations, there will be a rush to burrow and raise and extend and enlarge. Never mind your favourite sunspot or subsidence.

Or have I got this wrong? If not, then the future will be less hyper-local, more hyper-ventilating.