Q: My wife and I built our own home in a rural area about 10 years ago. We knew at the time that the landowner was in the process of selling a few sites along the same road. We now have neighbours on either side and we get on quite well with them. However, the landowner has since sold the land behind our home and we understand there is going to be a small estate built. All the neighbours are worried about the impact on privacy (any new development would probably look right into our back gardens) and on wastewater services (which have been strained at times). Do we not have a right to water or privacy? Is there anything we can do?
The first thing that you should do is see where the planning process is. If the planning process is still in train, you or your engineer should make enquiries and make whatever objections to planning might be appropriate.
Privacy of neighbours in their own garden is something that the planning authority should consider during the planning process. If that process is still in train, that should form part of your submissions. It is often advisable in such a case to pool your resources with your neighbours – both from the point of view of spreading the cost and also ensuring that the local authority knows there are actual concerns in the area.
You are entitled to make observations and the local authority should take those on board to either include restrictions or conditions on any development or potentially refuse permission altogether.
Conditions might include reducing the height of new buildings, ensuring that there is a green area behind your homes, providing for the expansion of a boundary wall, etc.
Any planning permission process should also include a full enquiry to confirm that the services (including water supply and wastewater) for the site and eventual homes are sufficient. Often, the developer will have to do other work to expand the capacity of services. Again, this is an issue that you or your engineer could raise at the initial stages, and the local authority can include such conditions as they might think appropriate.
If the developers have gotten to the stage where they are breaking ground on the site, it is highly likely that the planning permission has been obtained and that any possible avenues of appeal are no longer open to you. It is still very worthwhile to check.
That said, if you were to approach the developer and outline your concerns, it is possible that they might work with you to achieve a solution. Often developments of this nature need to lodge a subsequent planning application to make minor design or layout changes, and they may well want to address concerns and avoid future objections for the development.
If you remain concerned, please do speak to your solicitor.