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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 9324
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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My garden boundary borders on local council land. The

Customer Question

My garden boundary borders on local council land. The Council land is very steeply sloped and overgrown. My garden is almost level. The Council land has recently slipped and has taken a chunk of my lawn with it. There is now a 3 metre hole about 12 metres by 4 metres in my lawn.
Does the Council have an obligation to re-instate my land and to stabilise the bank?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

Whether the council have any liability in respect of this would depend on a variety of factors including whether they have done any work on the bank or not, whether your garden was built up to provide you with your flat garden, when that was built up, who built it up, and all those considerations. If you have buildings insurance, this is one of those things which you might want to get your insurance company to sort out between them and the council.

To prove that the council have been negligent in their maintenance or work on this area, you have to prove that the damage has been caused by something the council have done or something the council have not done and that the result was reasonably foreseeable. If this has been stable for many many years and the rain was of such proportions that this washed away, and it wasn’t reasonably foreseeable, then the council would escape liability.

It really comes down to what the reason was as to why the land collapsed and if, an inspection shortly before the collapse would have predicted that it was going to happen.

Can I clarify anything for you?

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Best wishes.


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your reply.
Is it therefore correct to say that unless there is negligence on the part of the Council, then the Council has no liability?
Clive Fowler
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

That’s correct. However just because this collapsed of its own accord doesn’t necessarily mean that there has been or has not been negligence. The defect would have to be such that a reasonable inspection would have revealed the problem .

It would also depend on whether the council had for example don’t work on the area and built it up and had done so negligently to the point where it collapsed.

F E Smith and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you again for your reply.
The Council's specialist ground engineer visited on Wednesday.
It seems that the Council's entire bank, including a footpath which crosses it (County Council responsibility) is on the move.
Additionally, a very large tree immediately adjacent to this area, was cut down by the Council 4 years ago for safety reasons.
A further point is that an Anglian Water Authority overflow pipe discharges onto the bank immediately to the other side of this "sink hole". Although an emergency overflow pipe, it seems to be discharging water in unexceptional rainfall, and also carries the whiff of sewage, at times.
However, from what you say, I am not sure how I could establish negligence. My contact with the Council is entirely cordial.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. There is no reason why you are conduct with the council should be cordial at this stage. After all, this isn’t personal, you have suffered a large loss. This is simply a commercial issue.

It may be that the cutting down of the tree has destabilised the land it may be that the overflow discharge pipe has done the same.

It may be a combination of both the new you are going to need is a report from the civil engineer which states exactly why this bank has now started to move after having been in place for many years.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you.
I will do that.
Clive Fowler.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.

It was my pleasure to help you. I hope you get it sorted. Best wishes.