Property: A question of perspective

What rights do you have if the view from your home is ruined? Gwenda Joyce-Brophy reports
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The Independent Online
WHEN Basil Fawlty berated one of his guests for complaining that there was no "view" from her room - "What do you expect, herds of wildebeest ?" - he not surprisingly neglected a basic rule of the housing market: that a stunning view can add hugely to the attraction of a property and push up its value.

Dan Barton, an insurance broker with Lloyd's of London, commutes into the City of London each day. But when he gets home to his converted farmhouse in Bewl, East Sussex, he can sit in the kitchen or conservatory facing an unobstructed view of rolling countryside. "To be able to relax in front of this is amazingly calming," he says.

Did the panorama persuade Dan and his wife Alana to buy the property? "When we came to look at the house, we thought the view was magical. It was just the right distance from London to make commuting feasible, but the view clinched it."

Marc Williams, of Kinleigh, Folkard and Hayward, an estate agent in Blackheath, south London, says: "While we don't have people coming in and asking for properties with a view, a great outlook does add something to a property and can make it more saleable."

Some properties have more than one great view. Fisher Wrathall in Lancaster has a house on its books with views to the Lake District in one direction, to the Pennines in another, and the Blackpool tower from a third side of the house. Even a view of the much-maligned Millennium Dome is now receiving top billing on the brochures of some Greenwich estate agents.

What often causes consternation is a development that takes place after you've bought a home, and which ruins the view. Chris Beckles, who lives in South London, has watched a tram system being built near his home: "The construction is now at something like a 30ft elevation and people are fearful that it will devalue property prices in the area. I'm renting so I can leave, but I wouldn't buy here now."

Humberside residents were furious when a frozen foods company decided to build a massive cold store in the middle of a residential area. Some homes faced losing their view of the busy River Humber and the variety of shipping that passes by. They were unimpressed by the architects' efforts to clad the cold store in grey and blue at the base, silver in the middle and light grey at the top to "minimise the effect on the skyline".

If you do have a property with an impressive view and it is threatened, what can you do? Edward Nally is chairman of the Law Society's Conveyancing and Law Committee. "If you had lived in a property for some time - say five or 10 years - then the development was unlikely to have been under contemplation at the time of purchase," he says. "If a flyover or petrol station is planned, the normal planning process has to be followed. It is this process that is your major shield, and where the proposals interfere with your aspect then that objection should be aired.

"The larger and more dramatic the proposed development, the greater the scope for resistance."

Nothing is guaranteed, and if a development does go ahead then the value of your house may well drop. You may have to console yourself with saving a few pounds on the rateable value of the property.

And what about the nightmare of moving into a house one day and then discovering the next that a new office or residential development is to be constructed nearby? "During the conveyancing process there should be local authority searches and inquiries can also be made to the seller. In this situation it really is a matter of 'buyer beware'," says Mr Nally.

"You don't have any comeback against the seller for not disclosing what you consider to be vital information, but if her or she has been asked and misrepresented the situation then you will have some redress."

But can you put a price on views? Economists argue that the value of a perspective would be reflected in the price of a property. Often, the view is part of a larger package of factors, and if the house is a one- off then it is impossible to isolate the value of the view itself. Where there are properties that are broadly similar, it is easier to estimate the value that is being placed on the view. "We have a two-bedroom, two- bathroom flat with stunning views over the heath for pounds 280,000," says Mr Williams in Blackheath. "A similar flat without the view is on sale for pounds 260,000."