Woman yet to receive a penny of compensation from extension neighbour (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Helen Coughlan, 51, of Highfield Road, Woodford Bridge, yet to receive a penny of compensation from extension neighbour
A woman awarded £30,000 in compensation after a neighbour's extension blocked out most of the natural light in her home has yet to receive a penny four months on.
Helen Coughlan, 51, of Highfield Road in Woodford Bridge, was horrified when Redbridge Council gave Tariq Ahmed planning permission for the work.
The extension is less than three feet away from Mrs Coughlan's home and she is forced to leave her lights on for long periods due to the lack of light.
She sued her neighbour for compensation and a £30,000 out of court settlement was reached, with Mr Ahmed also agreeing to pay £10,000 legal costs.
But an agreed £6,000 lump sum and £2,000 monthly instalments have not been paid, and he has applied to the court to pay just £250 a month.
Mrs Coughlan, 51, said: "I am not going to accept £250 a month – I’ll be nearly dead by the time it is paid off.
"He must have known four months ago he wouldn’t be able pay back the money.
"I am fed up with the whole system. I have been let down at every point in the process.
"I appealed against the decision and got nowhere. I took Mr Ahmed to court and haven’t received a penny.
"My house has lost £50,000 in value and the court costs are costing me thousands."
Mrs Coughlan has lodged a complaint against Redbridge Council with the local government ombudsman.
The authority has confirmed it is investigating the legality of a patio built by Mr Ahmed, but not the extension.
The Law Commission has launched a consultation after proposing to relax laws giving homeowners the right to light and Mrs Coughlan has vowed to contribute.
She said: "I really want to show what living without light does and how changing the law will affect people’s lives.
"It is constantly dark in my house and I feel stressed and depressed constantly."
A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council said: "We recognise this is a complex matter and sympathise with the situation between Mrs Coughlan and her neighbour, however, the council is satisfied it applied the relevant planning policies and procedures correctly.
"The ‘right to light’ is a private law right which is not, of itself, a qualifying factor when determining planning applications.
"It is an applicant’s responsibility to consider the relevance of the general law, including any possible rights to light enjoyed by neighbouring dwellings. Any interference with such rights may make the applicant liable to private civil law action.
"Having properly investigated Mrs Coughlan's complaint to the council, we understand she has now referred her complaint to the Ombudsman and we will of course respond to any matters raised by the Ombudsman."
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