Report on points raised by Messrs J Hall-Wright & Ladds, Solicitors, in respect of Structural Alterations taking place at the Bank Premises, 482 Stratford Road.
Alleged trespass in rebuilding a wall.
In order to construct a strong room below the ground floor, it was necessary to excavate to the required depth. On opening the ground it was found that the 9 inch wall dividing the properties only extended about 2 feet below the street level. The Architect gave instructions for the 9 inch wall to be continued down to the required level and, to comply with the City bye-laws, to increase the thickness of the wall by a further 4½ inches on the Bank side. I am informed that it is customary to do this work, with or without the consent of the adjoining owners, and that an extension of only part of the width of the wall would render the other part unsafe and result in damage to the adjoining property. In fact, I am told that in all such alterations a contractor must have regard to the safety of the wall, and carry through the job so as to avoid any weakness occurring. Messrs Pearce & Son have done the work without annoyance to the adjoining owner, and no damage has been done to his property. The wall is obviously now in a stronger state than formerly.
Although the requisitions on title appear to indicate that there are no party walls, I am of opinion the wall is a party wall, and this view is confirmed by Mr Wilde and the Contractor, who did not consider it necessary to obtain his consent. He has carried through many similar jobs, and no question has previously been raised about continuing the wall and making it perfectly safe.
The enclosed plan shows the construction of the strong room, and the extent of the rebuilding of the wall below the ground floor.
The point regarding the rebuilding of a wall and trespass on the adjoining land for the purpose of erecting a scaffold refers to another part of the building, which is indicated also on the plan enclosed. In this connection, the Contractor discovered that the adjoining owner had thrown a large heap of bricks against the wall in his yard, with the result that when he removed the roof of our outbuilding he found the pressure of the bricks had rendered the wall unsafe. These bricks are the result of alterations carried out to the adjoining premises by the owner. The Architect, after inspection, ordered the Contractor to take down the unsafe part of the wall and rebuild it, for which purpose he had to erect a small platform or scaffold. The adjoining owner gave the Contractor permission to move the bricks, etc which were in the way to another part of his yard, but he did not give permission to rebuild the wall. The trespass could only, therefore, extend to the rebuilding of the wall, and not to removal of bricks, etc. The Contractor removed all rubbish and scaffold, and left this particular part of the yard in a cleaner condition than previously. As a matter of fact, the adjoining owner suggested a payment of 5/-d. to the Contractor for the removal of his rubbish. The Contractor did not make any charge, but removed to a tip two loads of rubbish belonging to the adjoining owner from his yard.
An inspection on Saturday last shows that the adjoining owner has still a large area of bricks stacked against the wall, constituting a danger to the wall, and should be required to remove them elsewhere.
Raising of the wall.
According to the plan, the wall complained of is being raised about 8 feet from its original height. To the extent that any increase in the height of the wall takes away a certain amount of light from adjoining premises, this must be admitted. The importance of this matter is being exaggerated, because it is a fact that the adjoining owner contemplated erecting a warehouse on his yard, and suggested that our Contractor should give him a price for covering in the whole of the back yard so as to form a warehouse.
Condition of yard.
The bulk of the building material, brick-ends, mortar and building utensils in the yard and on the land of the adjoining owner is the result of his own alterations, and not those of the Bank. During the course of the Bank building operations it is quite possible that a small amount of slate, mortar, bricks, etc may have fallen over to the adjoining land, which is inevitable in any alteration scheme, but this position would be met by a little clearing-up which the Contractor would undoubtedly do.
Use of lavatory.
No permission has been given by the Contractor for his men to use the lavatory belonging to the adjoining owner. Other arrangements were made for this purpose, which did not affect the adjoining owner. The Contractor has no knowledge of any use of the said lavatory, and two workmen I questioned on Saturday denied ever using same, and had no knowledge of anyone using the lavatory.
Cutting down of tree.
This is denied. The Contractor cannot trace any such action, and assumes if such a tree existed the contractors who carried out alterations for the adjoining owner are responsible. Of my own knowledge I can say there never was a large tree in the yard. It could only have been a small one, otherwise it would have been noticeable.
Breaking of gate and frame, and smashing of step.
The Contractor denies any such damage, and the responsibility must attach to others. Again, to my knowledge, the gate and frame have been in a bad state of repair for a long time, and the step complained of consists of bricks placed on end. They were in a damaged state long before these alterations were commenced.
Interview with adjoining Owner.
The Solicitors are wrong in their facts. What happened was that when the Bank Committee decided upon enlarging our premises, it became necessary to find temporary accommodation for the Branch. Mr H G Wright, one of my officials, was deputed to find such accommodation. Noticing three empty houses (belonging to the adjoining owner), he enquired from the shop manager whether one of them could be rented for a period of six months or so. The shop manager arranged an interview with the owner (Mr Wilson), when the latter said it was a pity that the Bank had not approached him before he altered his shop, and stated he was prepared to discuss the question even at that stage. Accordingly, I interviewed him at his shop with Mr Wright, produced our plans, and fully explained the alterations we were proposing to carry through. He intimated he might sell his premises, and I gave him the following alternative suggestions to consider: (1) Wilson to sell his shop and move into the three empty houses after structural alterations had been made; (2) Wilson to sell the three empty houses to the Bank; (3) Wilson to buy the Bank premises in the event of No 2 being agreed to, or else the Bank to sell to another party. At this stage I passed the matter over to the Bank's Agent (Mr Frank Wilde), who had instructions to negotiate. Despite Mr Wilde's efforts, the negotiations fell through on the ground of price, and the Committee directed the alterations to proceed. The necessary temporary accommodation was subsequently found for the Bank by the Education Committee.
I may add that, on my visit, Mr Wilson showed me over his premises and yard, when I observed the very untidy condition of the rear part of the premises, and particularly the yard which was littered with rubbish. I drew his attention to the state, and particularly to the stack of bricks, when he replied that his builders had not finished, and he would be using the bricks for other work.
To say that Mr Wilson did not inspect the plans is untrue. He went over them carefully, and asked many questions, and especially in regard to the basement which he suggested would not be very convenient.
Encroachment by adjoining Owner.
The fact that the adjoining owner is becoming awkward to deal with, and has thought it fitting to place the matter in the hands of his lawyers, now justifies the Bank raising the question of a serious encroachment consisting of a pilaster of stone, cement or other material, from the footpath level to the height of the shop - about 13 feet. An inspection made on Saturday by Mr Wilde shows that the encroachment extends to 4½ inches from the footpath level to the facia or cornice and 10 inches in respect of the facia or cornice. I submit that we should now call upon the adjoining owner to remove the encroachment, or alternatively agree to an easement in respect thereof.
If the adjoining owner adopts a more reasonable attitude, and is prepared to waive all his objections on condition that the Bank does not insist on the easement or removal of the encroachment, I should recommend the matter being disposed of in that way; but failing such agreement, I should advise defending any action he may take, and entering a counter-action in respect of the encroachment. Apart from the right of light, I do not consider he has any ground for complaint.
May 18th 1932.