Why you should build on the line of junction

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If you’re planning a domestic extension and reviewing the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, you might be thinking the best thing you can do is keep your new structure spaced away from the boundary, but it’s not necessarily so. Yes, keeping a space – any space – away from the boundary (what we call the line of junction) will get you out of needing to serve a line of junction notice to your neighbour. But the bigger issue here is access.

You’ll need to serve an excavation notice if your proposed foundations are within 3m of your neighbours building or structures and to a lower level than their foundations. So you will be into party wall territory and the related time and cost anyway. If there is agreement, or dissent leading to surveyors making a party wall award, you may think this means you can go ahead and build your extension with scaffolding on your neighbours land as required. Wrong.

The Party Wall Act does not automatically grant rights of access to do all your work; instead it only grants access to do the work pursuant to the Act. That is, only the work for which you have issued notice.

In the case of excavation notices alone:

  • Only the excavation is pursuant to the Act. You will have no right to access your neighbour’s land further or erect scaffolding to build or finish the wall, roof or gutters etc. This means that your walls close to the boundaries can only be built ‘overhand’ (the bricklayer leaning over the wall from your side and finishing each course as work progresses, as best they can). This usually results in a patchy or inconsistent finish on view to your neighbours. Finishing the roof edge and gutters will also be challenging.
  • There may be safety, technical or physical reasons why you can’t do the work without a scaffold.
  • Keeping back from the line might create a damp dark gap between two extensions, difficult to maintain.
  • You could only have access or erect scaffolding by agreeing a separate Access Licence or Scaffold Licence with your neighbours; you would need their consent and to pay them whatever weekly rate for use of the land could be negotiated between you along with other conditions agreed.
  • You could simply leave the wall finished as best you can. There may be some aesthetic complaint from neighbours but this is the choice they make if failing to reach a reasonable agreement for the licences above.

However if you were to position your wall to have its face on the boundary line, but standing wholly on your land:

  • This would require a line of junction notice for building the wall in addition to the excavation notice. The building of the whole wall becomes work pursuant to the Act and you gain right of access under the Act, including scaffolding and access for your workers without a scaffold licence or weekly charge.
  • The adjoining owner cannot object, except through the planning process. The adjoining owner cannot prevent access, if they do it is an offence under the act subject to a fine.
  • This might be better for the adjoining owner anyway as it would do away with a gap if they also have an extension built.
  • Obviously if you have already designed the work and got planning permission this may require a planning amendment and additional work for your architect.

Far from being something to avoid, building on the line of junction can be beneficial. You should consider your options carefully and seek advice from a competent party wall surveyor, such as Dorian Burt.

You can also read more on our pages Party Wall Service and Party Wall Questions & Answers.

We can be consulted for initial advice, appointed as either the Building Owner’s Surveyor, the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor, or appointed as a joint Agreed Surveyor.

Contact us for help.

Dorian Burt is a Member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (FPWS).