Extending your garden isn't roses all the way: Andrew Bibby tells those eyeing neighbours' land to dig deep into the legal aspects

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The Independent Online
NOT many people go to the lengths contemplated by John and Anne Newhill to improve the view from their house.

The Newhills, who live at Norwood Green, near Halifax, West Yorkshire, arranged to buy their next door neighbours' cottage for pounds 120,000 simply to demolish it.

Mr Newhill, a company director, says the price was worth paying to enlarge their garden and give better views of the countryside.

However, the demolition plans led to opposition from other village residents as well as Shelter. They are now reconsidering.

Anyone who wants to extend a garden under more conventional circumstances should bear in mind a few basic principles.

Exchange of land between neighbours is fairly common. Normally the size of the garden is the motivating factor.

Transfers are recorded by the Land Registry, which redraws the boundaries. 'Our advice would be to make sure it is recorded on the title deeds of both properties,' said a Land Registry spokesman. 'Otherwise a new neighbour could say: 'I want my bit of land back.' '

More of a problem for the purchaser may be agreeing a price, particularly as a valuation is likely to be highly subjective. Paul Spaven, a partner with Tuffin Ferraby and Taylor, said: 'The way we suggest this is approached is by asking how much this adds to the value of the property.'

In practice, however, it is more likely to come down to simple bargaining.

Surveyors say that in many cases buyers lose out financially. The cost of extra land is unlikely to be fully reflected in the new market value of the property, but homeowners may feel the price is worth paying.

Gardeners eyeing a neighbouring farmer's field should also ponder the possible planning implications, said Ruth Richards, director of Planning Aid for London.

'If you were buying a piece of agricultural land, for example to increase your garden, this would involve change of use and would need planning permission,' she pointed out. The Ministry of Agriculture may also be interested.

If, on the other hand, you just want an extra field for a newly-acquired pony you may be all right. 'Grazing is agricultural,' said Ms Richards.

As far as the Newhills are concerned, Mr Harris said: 'There is no legal right to a view.' The closest to this is through the common law right to daylight.

Windows can acquire a legal right to light in various ways, most commonly after a simple 20-year period.

While an 'ancient lights' notice can be put up, this is not a means of claiming a right but simply identifies that the right has already become established.

The right to light is not absolute. The key question in law is whether sufficient light is left.

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