The neighbour from hell

writes in Stuff:

Not all neighbours are nice. David Walmsley, for instance, built a giant “play fort” on his Roseneath property and blocked the grand harbour view of the people next door, Peter and Sylvia Aitchison.

The fence was 4m high and 11m long.

The Environment Court has now ordered Walmsley to take the fence down. Any other verdict was, frankly, unthinkable. Walmsley has shown that he is the neighbour from hell.

Judge Brian Dwyer said the Aitchisons had established their case by an overwhelming margin.

I’m glad the judge ruled the way he did.

It is very clear that Walmsley didn’t even want a play fort. For some reason he just wanted to screw over his neighbours and destroy their view.

The judge said Walmsley’s claim that he was building a fort, not a fence was “just a contrivance” to get around the rules. And he criticised Walmsley’s attitude, his “deliberate refusal to consider any remedy”.

How right the judge was.

Not only did Walmsley build this monstrosity, he was utterly unapologetic about it. He felt no need to consider its effects on the neighbours, he told the court in Wellington this week.

“So you don’t have to have regard to what affects them?” the Aitchisons’ lawyer Andrew Cameron asked. “Pretty much, yeah,” Walmsley said.

“So it was too bad for the Aitchisons?” Cameron asked. Walmsley replied: “I think, yeah, pretty much if it blocked their view. It’s not necessarily too bad, and it’s something to be expected.”

The impact on the Aitchisons was two-fold. The first was it knocked around $900,000 off the value of their property. Now I don’t know their background, but I imagine like most families they’ve worked hard all their lives to be able to afford their house. Suddenly losing $900,000 of value could represent all your work for the last 10 to 12 years – just gone like that.

But the arguably bigger impact is the loss of the view. Views are important. They are a big part of why people buy a particular house. They can be incredibly soothing. Your home goes from a place of relaxation to a place of enclosure.

So what happens next? The Wellington City Council needs to take a lesson from this case. It originally gave permission for the fence, but later reversed itself and backed the Aitchisons’ application to the court to have the fence lowered.

The council should be embarrassed that it got things so badly wrong in the first place.

It certainly needs to make sure this never happens again. Any District Plan that allows such a thing is insane.

It is very rare I agree entirely with an Anthony Hubbard column, but I do with this one.

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