Neighbourly Etiquette : Neighbourly Love..Or Is It?

You only have to glance at NappyValleyNet to see that neighbourly issues are an oft discussed topic. Charlotte Peterson explores the trials and tribulations of cheek by jowl London living

Neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours. Lyricist Jackie Trent has got a point. It should be easy, shouldn’t it? Wherever you live, you will have a neighbour, or two or three or even four, with whom I’m sure most of us barring the odd bah-humbug Scrooge would like to get on with. Just a little bit. It’s the brief hello, quick chat on the doorstep while exchanging deliveries, pleasantries on the way out.

Nothing more. No huge commitment required, just good manners and being kind. However, building works must be the most challenging of all eventualities to befall any neighbour anywhere, whether party wall agreements are involved or not. You have the skip. Stop. Before the skip you have the restriction on parking. Or worse, no paid-for restriction, just a couple of spaces ‘bagsied’ with builder’s stuff. I have been known (to my children’s intense, sliding-down-in-their-seats embarrassment) to get out of the car and hoik an entire bag of cement sand out of the way so that I might park for ten minutes. It drives me mad. If you need a space reserved, do it by the book and book it.

Back to the builders. The noise. Stop. What if planning permission was needed? Did anyone object? Then to appeal, and so etched forever after on a council website. Awkward. But that’s life. The key to any building project where you remain on good terms with your neighbours is communication and thoughtfulness.

Some projects no longer require planning permission and much can go ahead with permitted development. Nevertheless, suitable advance notice and making your neighbours aware of the duration and details of works is simply good manners, perhaps rounded off with a bottle of wine and the offer of a window cleaner.

Building works really do offer a full remit of potential issues. Scaffolding, disruptive deliveries, noise – drilling, bashing and crashing – ensuing structural damage, settlement. And mice. We once had a whole family of mice up sticks and move into ours when their lovely empty home was suddenly filled with builders and their nest-shaking equipment. Who’d blame them?  I’d move.

From bricks and mortar to fresh air and foliage. Now there’s another whole world of opportunity for neighbourly angst. Firstly, there’s the question of whose fence is whose. Then the trees that have got out of hand, casting unwanted shade neighbourwards, or branches overhanging fences.

From a law dating back to 1895, anything hanging over a neighbour’s boundary without permission is deemed as trespassing and you may cut it back as long as the tree is not fundamentally damaged. But why not talk before picking up the chainsaw? And it’s worth knowing that any branches or fruit removed from your neighbour’s tree should – strictly speaking – be sent back from whence they came. But if you have a stash of plum jam or apple purée thanks to a windfall from next door’s boughs, good on you.

So garden noise levels – how much screaming is too much screaming? How early to go out to play in the morning (a subject of quite some debate on NappyValleyNet)? In these cases surely common sense and common decency should prevail. All night raves are one thing (bad) but BBQs with ever-increasing noise levels thanks to everincreasing alcohol intake which stop in time for reasonable babysitting curfews are not so bad. If they’re day-in-day-out though, that’s just annoying and rude.

Back inside and onto parties. To invite or not to invite the neighbours? How late is too late? How loud is too loud? Is it regular or is it rare? It’s a minefield out there. In fact, when you drill down into this neighbourly etiquette thing it’s a wonder we can all live next door to each other without more disputes arising. But arise they do and you only have to glimpse at the news to find stories of cases which get out of hand and end up in the law courts.

And so to children. With babies, I remember worrying about whether next door could hear their screaming in the middle of the night; now I worry about whether they can hear us shouting at the children to stop shouting. And the music practise – don’t you just love a novice on the French horn, the trumpet, the violin? Soundproofing. It’s a thing worth investigating.

So the key to happy cheek by jowl living? Thoughtful communication. Because you know what happens when we don’t talk anymore…there I go again with the songs. Just live and let live. And if anyone is looking for scaffolding, drop me a line. There’s a company sign just 2cm away from my bathroom Velux. The days of showering in private have long gone.


Before we open our toolbox, we talk to our clients about the need to be pro-active and communicative with their neighbours for good relations during a build project.

Ensure that your building company introduces themselves to neighbours and provides them with a reliable point of contact and business card or leaflet.

Make sure your building company tidies up fully at the end of each day’s activity, keeping pavements and neighbouring gardens free of wind-blown debris.

Alert neighbours in advance of any particularly noisy work or disruptive deliveries.

Ensure that your building company is adequately insured and is skilled up correctly and certificated for your particular project.

Respect the fact that your neighbours may carry out similar works in the future, so demonstrations of goodwill help!

Building works in residential areas are usually restricted to 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays. No loud works are allowed on Sundays. Be sure that your builders keep to the rules.

Source: Red Box

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