I don’t want to fall out with my new neighbour but I’m concerned by what is happening on their land. I’m farming in the north west of the country all my life and live with my wife. We don’t have a big farm, but part of it is about two miles down a quiet road from our home-place, so I’m up and down the road every day, seeing all the comings and goings.
Next door to our outfarm is an old run-down farmhouse with some sheds on 20 acres. It was abandoned about 30 years ago after the occupant, who was a very good neighbour passed away.
He left the land, house and sheds to his nephew, who was living in England. He left it idle, and we grazed the land with his permission down through the years.
However, just over a year ago he returned home with the intention of farming the land.
He told me at the time that he was going to do up the ruined house and the sheds.
However, that hasn’t happened. In fact, nothing has happened except that he moved a caravan onto the site and created a mess, which has been growing since he landed.
At first I was cordial with him, as I’d been grazing the land, but I’m finding it difficult to tolerate the growing mess on the side of the road. I was hoping to sell my own outfarm in the coming year or two, as we don’t have any children and it will be our retirement fund. But now I think the value has been devalued due to my neighbour creating an eyesore next door. Is there anything I can do?
The issue of development, especially unauthorised development, on neighbouring lands can create difficulties between neighbours. In your query, you do not specify whether or not your deceased neighbour’s nephew is living in the caravan or not, but I will deal with both scenarios below.
Firstly, it is important to look at the legislation. Class 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 states that the keeping of a caravan, campervan or boat within the area of land attached to a house is exempt from planning requirements if it meets three conditions:
Therefore, if your neighbour’s nephew is not living in the caravan and has been storing it on his lands for over nine months in the past year, it is not exempted development and requires planning permission.
If your neighbour’s nephew is living in the caravan, then it is certainly not exempted development and planning permission is required. His residing in the caravan constitutes a development within the planning legislation.
A development is defined as the carrying out of any works on, in, over or under land or the making of any material change in the use of any structures or other land.
If this man does not have planning permission for this caravan, then he could be served with an enforcement notice from the Local Authority.
You have not delved into what services, if any, the neighbour is using for this caravan if he is living there. By services, I am referring to water, electricity and sewage. You have stated the old house is a ruin, so presumably he is not getting services from there.
A further issue to consider is whether the dilapidated state of the property would render it a derelict site.
A derelict site is defined as any land that detracts or is likely to detract to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of the land in the neighbourhood because:
If you believe this could be a derelict site, contact your Local Authority and they will investigate same.
You also mention this neighbour has created a ‘mess’ that is piling up ‘on the side of the road’. It is not clear from your query whether this is growing at the side of the road inside his property or actually on the road.
You also do not say whether it is causing a nuisance to your property. A nuisance is where your use and enjoyment of your property is being unjustifiably interfered with, for example, due to odours or sewerage. If the mess is causing a nuisance, you could pursue a civil action against your neighbour.
You could also contact the environmental section of your Local Authority to report the problem and request an investigation.
You do not say whether or not you have approached this man to speak with him about this mess and the caravan. In any dispute between neighbours, the first port of call should always be to attempt to resolve the matter amicably as you must continue to live/work beside each other.
If he refuses to do anything, then you will have no choice but to report him to the Local Authority and speak with your solicitor to protect your asset.
Deirdre Flynn is from a farming background and practices at Deirdre Flynn Solicitors, Ivy Terrace, Tralee, Co. Kerry.
The information in this article is intended as a general guide only. While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information provided, Deirdre Flynn does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising. You should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.