As a householder you may find yourself annoyed at the prospect of a neighbour's planned extension. But did you know that even if planning permission for that extension has been obtained, you may be able to prevent the extension from going ahead.

This conclusion, possibly startling to some, arises from the High Court decision in Richard Dennis and Margaret Dennis and others -v- Anthony Stephen Davies. Mr Davies had obtained planning permission for a three storey extension to his house but a number of his neighbours complained that it would severely restrict their view of the River Thames and would constitute an annoyance for them. All the houses on the estate of which Mr Davies' property formed a part were affected by a series of restrictive covenants including one stating "not to do... anything ... which may be or become a nuisance or annoyance to the owners or occupiers for the time being of the estate or the neighbourhood". Mr Davies' neighbours who brought the action against him were adamant that the extension would be an annoyance

On behalf of Mr Davies it was argued that none of the neighbours had a right to a view and the covenant restricted activities on Mr Davies' property rather than the effect of buildings. The Judge disagreed and held that there is no reason why as a matter of construction the words "cannot apply to the effect of alterations carried out to existing buildings".

He concluded that a three storey red brick extension would "trouble the minds of the ordinary sensible English inhabitant" of the houses in the neighbourhood and in those circumstances, it did constitute an annoyance within the meaning of the covenant. Thus Mr Davies' neighbours were entitled to enforce the restrictive covenant and prevent the extension.

Many new houses on estates contain what one might call an "annoyance covenant". This case, although it created no new law, may prove an encouragement to landowners to oppose unwanted extensions on their neighbours' properties.