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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 8445
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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Despite strong protests from the local residents, the

Resolved Question:

Despite strong protests from the local residents, the Council in my area had approved planning application for a building work which involved deep piling method. I received no notification of the planned work and found out about it only when my building was shaking violently. This method is well for causing structural damage to neighbouring buildings, particularly to older ones like mine. As a result of these intense vibrations, covering quite a large area and lasting for several weeks, the ceiling in my apartment cracked. The residents’ pleas to the Council to intervene were ignored. A year later the ceiling collapsed, only seconds after I’d walked under it. It caused devastation in my property. I was lucky to escape alive. The Council stated that any claims should be directed to the developer and meanwhile approved the next application for similar work. I would like to claim damages. What legal authority should I approach for compensation? Ombudsman? Court?
Eva Corsack
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

Do you have photographs of the damage before it collapsed and afterwards?

Do you have any kind of report which would confirm that this damage was caused by the vibration from the piling?

Has anyone else suffered similar damage to their property? How many approximately?

Are you insured for the damage and/or do you have legal expenses insurance attached to your house insurances?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Posted by JustAnswer at customer's request) Hello. I would like to request the following Expert Service(s) from you: Live Phone Call. Let me know if you need more information, or send me the service offer(s) so we can proceed.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I have already paid a deposit of £47.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I have many photographs of the damage. Not 'before' though, as one does not normally walk about one's flat taking photos of ceilings – but I have witnesses. The entire hall had been repainted only a year before the crack occurred.
There is a body of research and a large and thorough Swedish report describing this kind of damage as a sequel of deep piling. Some time ago similar damage (in another borough) was reported on BBC news. The vibrations were so strong that pictures were falling from walls, windows were cracked, broadband damaged etc. All these are listed in the Swedish report (based on British research!) I have lived in this property for 22 years and nothing like this had ever happened.
At least eight other people in the neighbourhood suffered similar damages, which they reported to the Council (of no avail). There are about 150 e-mails pertaining to that, most of them I have saved on my computer.
I have building insurance but it does not cover legal expenses. As I am a very infrequent claimer (less than once a decade) I have a high excess threshold.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

The “after” pictures will be sufficient.

If you get the other 8 people to join in a joint action, it would dilate the legal costs and the risk considerably.

Your claim is against the developer in negligence, not against the local authority. You have a complaint to make to the Local Government but not any litigation.

The value of your claim is whatever the cost is to put the property back into the condition it was in before this occurred.

I suggest that you also get a structural engineer’s report just in case the property has suffered some kind of destabilisation. Claim that cost back also

Can I clarify anything for you?

Please don’t forget to rate the service positive. It’s an important part of the process by which experts get paid. It doesn’t cost you anything but helped me greatly.

We can still exchange emails if you wish.

Best wishes.


Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Thank you for this.
Would an independent Ombudsman be the right place to take my complaint regarding the local authority? Can Ombudsman award me compensation? Is the Council accountable to anyone (other than via elections)? When I asked the Council why the project was approved, their answer was that they feared appeal and a possibility of losing it. Certainly, it was not the well-being of residents. The whole problem could have been had the Council produced a policy of 'no deep pile piling' in this area, which is what the residents advocated. Instead, it approved of yet another similar project...The Council’s failure in its duty of care is striking.
Incidentally, the Councillor who sat on the Planning Committee refused to give me the address of the developer. He claimed amnesia. Besides, the developer has shown himself a liar and a manipulator. What am I to do?
Thank you for your patience,
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

You would need to put a question in the US law section of the website but it doesn’t appear to be a United States copyright number according to this


the © merely serves as a reminder and deterrent in the United Kingdom. It is of no legal effect. So you can stick it where you like although if you do not own the copyright, it could be said to be misleading.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
My original question was about the possible legal action I could take against the Council. It was the Council that approved a highly noxious building work and failed in its duty of care to the residents, putting our life in jeopardy. Unless the local authority pays the compensation and learns the lesson, we shall be forever chasing elusive, greedy developers.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 2 months ago.

I apologise for that. Sometimes posts end up in the wrong section. It’s a problem with cut and paste on my computer.

You would take the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman. Years ago, they were not particularly effective but they do now look into things really deeply.

The council is accountable to the ombudsman and of course the government and the residents.

The ultimate sanction of course is judicial review of the decisions.

Do remember that if any of the local residents don’t join in any legal action, they have no risk but still get the benefit.

I assume that you now have the address of the developer. If not, then you have further grounds for complaint although it should be on the planning application.

Please don’t forget to use the rating service in respect of my answer. We can still exchange emails.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you for this very much, indeed.
And now, the last question: can the Ombudsman award financial compensation for the damages?
It feels extremely unfair to me that as an old -age pensioner I had to borrow money to repair the ceiling, while the people who gave a green light for the destruction continue to collect their salaries (out of my taxes!), with impunity.Promise, I let you off after this. Thank you for your expertise and your patience.
Kind regards,
Expert:  F E Smith replied 2 months ago.

The Ombudsman does have the power to award financial compensation but does not normally do so and it would say that was the remit of the civil courts.

The civil claim is something that your insurer may deal with.

I agree with the comments you make about the council. If it was affecting their personal property, they wouldn’t even consider going ahead with it.

I know at least one local authority chief executive who actually lives in the next county because he prefers the area!

F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 8445
Experience: I have been practising for 30 years.
F E Smith and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
Best, Eva

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