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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10397
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I am replacing Windows and will have to have it done from my

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I am replacing Windows and will have to have it done from my neighbours land A narrow tower has to be used but there is a 5ft holly bush planted within 2 ft of my window. I have just suggested I would by a replacement plant if it did not grow above my window sill & am awaiting an answer. What rights do I have to ask for reasonable access to the side of my house. There is ivy growing up which I want to remove. I have the same problem on the other window which has 2 buddlias growing ousted it, now about 5ft and 9 ft tall, which I have asked them to cut back. On both windows, if anything grows above my sills (about 4ft high) I shall be back to square one, loss of light and difficulty in access for repairs. What can I do - we get on OK & I don't want to fall out.

Under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act you are allowed access to the neighbour’s land for any work required to preserve your property (maintain it). If the neighbour will not agree, then you can take the neighbour to court and get a court order to make them.

You have to cause as little damage as possible and you have to put right any damage you do course.

In respect of any plants blocking your light, light would have to be reduced by 50% or more before it becomes actionable. There is no right .

The right to light must not be excluded in your deeds. You must also have acquired the right by having the windows in place for at least 20 years.

If the wall is your wall, you are entitled to have the Ivy removed because it is trespassing.

If the roots of any plants damage the foundations of your property, whoever owns the plants is liable for that damage.

Can I clarify anything for you?

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Best wishes.


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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. They have cut the first buddlias back to sill level but not the one beyond it. I gather that it is the lady of the house who will be dealing with the holly tree outside the other window. no window cleaner will do the Windows due to difficulty of access. Is there any legal measurement as to the space required for access. I foresee the new Windows may suffer the same fate unless I can persuade them NOT to plant any tall bush or tree outside me. Even so, the bed goes right up to my wall so inevitably there is going to be some difficulty. I wondered if there was a rule as to clear access. Their bed is about 4 ft deep. I may be pleasantly surprised, but need to know my legal rights. They have not pruned in 4 years so even the 'background' is more shaded. Your comments would be appreciated

Thank you for accepting my answer.

There is no legal distance for trees or bushes from a house although the roots will normally extend to the same height as the tree.

There is no legal distance for access although foot access is deemed to be something wide enough to take a wheelbarrow (of all things) which is about 32 inches, the width of an external door.

If you need access to preserve/maintain your property and you can’t do so without damaging part of the garden, it is just a case of keeping that to a minimum and reinstating afterwards.

Incidentally, I know that many window companies will replace windows from the inside and certainly, the glass can be fitted from the inside so the actual window fitting might be less problematical than you think. It would be worthwhile speaking to the glazing company about this if you have not already.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you - at least I have some idea now of where I stand. It is replacing existing Critall-style Windows with new frames, so doubtful it can be done internally, certainly not mentioned when they were here.
I shall just have tokeey fingers crossed. So far I always seem to be on the receiving end of things, and being widowed and no 'mana out the house' doesn't help.
Thanks for clear and concise replies.

I am pleased to have helped. I would certainly mention to the window company because if they can do it, it would make it easier for them. They are used to difficult access arrangements.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I was very interested to see there is a 32 inch access thingy. I have yet to discuss anything with them as they are away. I don't want that space all the time, but I must ensure that a) there is access for the window fitters, and b) that in future the Windows can be cleaned. Currently no one will do them because of the deep border and the tall bushes in front of the window.
Would I be entitled to quote the 32 inches as a legal right. I just need to be sure of my facts and rights. Re the ivy, I would ask permission to go round and clear it myself.
I would welcome your advice.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Not sure if my last message has gone, sent (?) 3 mins ago. Let me know if it has come in, referring to 32 inch access. Thanks

An access way needing to be the right of a wheelbarrow refers to foot access, not the kind of access that you would need to do repairs to your property. There is nothing about there having to be any width at all to do that. In your case, the 32 inches isn’t relevant because it is not a formal access which you need.

Regarding the Ivy, if you cut it down, and do so without consent, it is criminal damage. If they won’t cut it down, and won’t allow you to cut it down, then it’s an application to court to abate the trespass

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I understand that the fitters need more room. I do not think they will be too unhappy about that provided care is taken, which I completely agree with. I am concerned about being able to get to me Windows to clean them, it has been impossible to get to them for ages. Of course I would be asking their permission to get the ivy off the wall. Does the 32 inch mean that I will be able to quote that in respect of cleaning. They would only be done every 6 weeks, but I must be able to get to them. Hopefully we can both come to an agreement about not having tall shrubs immediately outside me small windows, which blocks out badly needed light. Basically I think access will be given, but it's getting to the Windows at a later date and NOT having my light blocked that is a major concern. What rights do I have if push does come to shove? I have no wish to upset them.

The 32 inches only applies to a formal right-of-way. There is no statutory obligation to provide a right-of-way or access of any or description, the Act only says that they must provide “reasonable access”without saying what it is.

Light must be reduced by 50% before its actionable assuming that the window has been in place for more than 20 years and hence the right of light has been acquired and assuming it is not excluded in your deeds.

If this does become a problem, and they don’t want to assist you, it’s very difficult to get a remedy without upsetting them. If you can do it early on, with diplomacy, that’s fantastic.