MULTI-millionaire neighbours are battling it out over a tiny strip of land between their homes which could see a brand new £3m house knocked down and moved a foot to the left.
Tom Gueterbock, 50, and his wife, Helen, say their neighbours staged a “land grab” when they built a luxurious new home on what was once a Luftwaffe bomb site next-door – encroaching on their territory by 12 inches.
The space in between the two homes can be seen in this picture[/caption]
Tom Gueterbock, 50, and his wife, Helen say their land has been stolen[/caption]
The couple claim that Alex MacPhail should fill his basement in and move his house further away[/caption]
They say ex-City trader Alex MacPhail, 52, and his former wife, Helen, built their six-bedroom house too close to theirs and are demanding that he partly fill in his basement and move his house further away.
But Mr MacPhail, now a professional motivational speaker, denies encroaching on his neighbours’ land and is fighting a case he says could result in him having to take apart his stunning new home.
In a hearing at Central London County Court, Judge Nigel Gerald heard that Mr McPhail’s home was built on the site of a 1940 German bomb blast in Henderson Road, one of leafy Wandsworth’s sought after ‘Toast Rack’ streets.
The plan was to recreate the period house which had originally stood there, replacing a tatty block of six council flats built after the war in the smart Edwardian street, next to Wandsworth Common.
But Mr Gueterbock, a successful web and app developer, and his wife say their neighbours built their house closer than the original pre-war properties, narrowing the gap in between.
It has left them with only a tiny passageway less than three feet wide alongside their home, in which they can only just open the side door to their house, they say.
They also claim the MacPhails encroached on their property by building a basement which extends under the entire passageway and right up to the wall of the Gueterbock family home.
NEIGHBOURS AT WAR
The Gueterbocks’ solicitor, Robert Page, told the court the couple did not know the new house was so close because the passageway had been boarded up while the work took place.
Before the war, their house had been separated from next door by the shared alley, which provided access to the back gardens of the two houses, he said.
Half of the passageway formed part of each of the two neighbouring properties, while the owners of both had a right of way over all of it, he continued.
But when the Germans blitzed London in September 1940, the next door house and two others were destroyed and replaced by flats, the court heard.
The Gueterbocks bought their house in 2004, and by 2014 the flats next-door were in the hands of developers, Henderson Court Ltd, of which Mr MacPhail is now a director.
According to planning documents, the developers wanted to “repair the damage caused by the bomb” more than 70 years earlier by creating new homes in the original style.
Most residents were in favour of the proposals, which would see the “out of character” former council block replaced by three smart new townhouses, documents reveal.
As well as five bedrooms above ground level, the plans included space for a nanny’s room in the 27m long basement area beneath.
Mr Gueterbock and his wife are now suing in an attempt to get Mr MacPhail to move the outer wall of the house back from theirs by about a foot and partially fill in his basement.
They want an injunction requiring him to do the work and are asking for a legal declaration that they own half of the old passageway and have a right of way over all of it.
Denying the claim that they trespassed on the Gueterbocks’ land, Mr MacPhail points out that the passageway between the two houses forms part of the title to his property.
When the bombsite was compulsorily purchased by the council in 1949, it included the entirety of the passageway, he insists.
In his defence to his neighbours’ claim, his barrister Sebastian Kokelaar says the Gueterbocks originally objected to the planning application for the MacPhail house.
They had concerns over the boundary line, a basement lighting grate in the alley floor, and their access for bikes and pushchairs down the side of the house.
But after negotiations, they had withdrawn their objection, which he says meant they effectively agreed that the gap between the houses was part of what is now the MacPhail property. The boundary between them runs along the side of the Gueterbocks’ house, he says.
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In court, the MacPhails’ solicitor, Thomas West, said any court order requiring the basement or outer wall of the house to be moved would effectively mean “partial demolition of a completed building”.
The case appeared in court for a brief preliminary hearing in which parts of the case against Mrs MacPhail were dismissed because, since her November 2016 divorce, she no longer owns the house.
The Gueterbocks are seeking an injunction requiring the partial filling in of the basement and repositioning of the house wall against Mr MacPhail alone.
However, they continue to sue both Mr and Mrs MacPhail for damages for trespass from the date that the work started until the date she ceased to own it.
None of the neighbours were present for the hearing and the case itself will be heard by a judge at a later date.
Mr Gueterbock and his wife are now suing in an attempt to get Mr MacPhail to move the outer wall of the house back from theirs by about a foot and partially fill in his basement[/caption]
Mr MacPhail denies encroaching on his neighbours’ land[/caption]