Blown off course by the ill wind of change
Send your property problems to: Property Clinic, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT
In an effort to save fuel and be green, I am considering the installation of a domestic wind turbine which a large DIY store is promoting. It has three blades, is designed for use with most households and costs £1,500, which includes an expert survey for suitability and installation. The store also says government grants of up to 30 per cent are available.
However, my local county councillor states that planning permission will be necessary (costing £130) and might not be granted as this is a new and “grey” area. He also advises to wait until the Government clarifies the planning position. I am elderly and, for the installation to be economical, sooner would be better than later.
What are the pros and cons of going ahead with this? John Winter writes: Good for you, for trying to do your bit for the environment. As things stand, planning permission is required for the erection of wind turbines. The Government is aware that this is a great disincentive to people like yourself and we are told that legislation is under way to make wind turbines and solar panels “permitted development” in most cases. This will mean that planning permission will no longer be required. However, your need is now and this does not help you.
Sadly, the present situation is that you will need planning permission to erect your wind turbine, and, as you so rightly say, the local authority will charge you when you make an application.
I respect all efforts to cut down on global warming. Unfortunately, although we all curse when we receive our fuel bills, fossil fuels are relatively cheap. The “alternative energy” sources have difficulty competing if we look only at the economic criteria. So, I wish you well for your endeavour and hope that millions more will do the same, but I must add the sad caveat that your overall saving, in money terms, will not be great. John Winter runs his own architectural practice.
BRICKS & MORTAR
I am in desperate need of advice about my radiators. They are perfectly warm at the top but at the bottom they are freezing cold, even after hours of having my central heating on. I first thought that they needed bleeding, but this did not help at all. Can you please tell me what could be wrong with them and how I can fix the problem? David Snell writes: Pound to a penny your system has not ever been cleansed and what you have is sludge building up in the radiators.
You need to introduce a premium brand (Fernox or similar) COSHH-rated zero (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations 2002), non-acidic cleaner. Run the system for several days, then tap the offending radiators with a rubber mallet to free up any remaining debris. This will be put into suspension within the system, which should then be run for a further two weeks. Then tap the radiators again and flush/drain the system.
It may take three or even four drain downs and refills to clear the debris. It may even be necessary to repeat this whole process. But then, once things are right, the final refill should contain an inhibitor.
If all this fails, you may have no alternative but to get a professional power-flushing company in. David Snell is contributing editor to ‘Homebuilding & Renovating’ magazine and author of ‘Building Your Own Home’, available at £25 plus £2.25 from 0870 155 7222.
POINTS OF LAW
My daughter and son-in-law own a house at the end of a short-access track which is constructed of hardcore and gravel. Included in the purchase price of the property was the right of access over this track.
However, the owner of the track has subsequently sold the land on either side of it to a neighbour who is busy reducing the track’s width and moving its course to make his garden larger. As a result, it is now down to 2.8 metres wide and, with the curving nature of the track and its high kerbs, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for any small delivery lorry to gain access to the house.
The end of the track has also been moved, so that instead of my daughter and son-in-law being able to drive straight on to their own property, they are required to manoeuvre back and forth several times to get in and out.
Should they expect the track to be, within reason, the same width as when they purchased the right of access? Is there a minimum width for a drive to ensure that, say, a fire engine can gain access? Is it legal for the owner to allow the course of the track to be altered? David Fleming writes: The law is that if there is substantial interference with the right of way, the person enjoying the benefit of the right – that is, your daughter and son-in-law – can apply for an injunction to prevent the nuisance and have the “obstruction” removed.
It seems fairly clear that there has been substantial interference here. The fact that the track has been narrowed so that large vehicles cannot use it, combined with the way that your daughter and sonin-law now have to manoeuvre back and forth to get in and out, is a clear obstruction.
The issue of whether a fire engine could get access is a different one, but certainly it would be worthwhile informing the council and the fire brigade of the position as they may wish to take action on their own account.
In any event, for the reasons I have given, there has been an actionable obstruction and your daughter and son-in-law would be well within their rights in demanding that the right of way be reinstated. In the first instance, they should do so as soon as possible, as the longer the matter goes on, the more likely that the court will refuse an injunction, which is a discretionary remedy, on the grounds of delay. David Fleming is head of property litigation at William Heath & Co.
My son and his wife have recently bought a one-bedroom flat in a very large, old house converted into 10 flats where each owner has a share of the freehold. At present, the business of the house is administered by two owneroccupiers as director and director/secretary but one is retiring because of the hassle and my son is considering putting his name forward for election, even though he has no legal or secretarial training. How could he find out what duties and responsibilities the posts involve? Lorna Vestey writes: Common sense, time, diplomacy, administrative skills and endless patience are probably the chief requirements rather than legal or secretarial training. However, there are legal responsibilities in company directorships, including the need to comply with housing and the omnipresent health & safety legislation.
Does your son really need the hassle? He should certainly talk to the retiring director and ask about the exact time spent and worst aspects of managing this particular building.
With as many as 10 flats, I suggest they consider employing a managing agent.
Anyway, LEASE, the government-funded Leasehold Advisory Service (0845 345 1993) publishes various useful leaflets. Appointing a Managing Agent looks at whether you can manage without one, as well as setting out duties and obligations (also on www. lease-advice.org). Lorna Vestey is a former partner of a blue-chip London estate agency.