Everyone's heard the phrase 'tip of the iceberg'; suggesting a more complex issue than first assumed. Well, sometimes party wall matters take you beneath the 'wall', as I discovered on a recent project in London.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is often thought as a piece of legislation that is associated with terraced properties, loft conversions or garden walls, but recently I was appointed on a project that took me to the depths of the subterranean West End of London.
As a specialism that I am passionate about, I am fortunate to have been involved in some really exciting projects, but this one was particularly memorable and one I'd like to share.
Our client was an independent school based near Sloane Square extending their site to provide additional accommodation and teaching facilities. The design was partially beneath ground level and they were not aware that, as part of the development, they would need to serve notice on the London Underground under the Party Wall etc Act 1996 (The Act).
The design incorporated augured piled foundations penetrating the ground over 17m in depth and included construction within 3m adjacent to the District line, where a large venting shaft of traditional brick construction penetrated the surface braced with large steel members.
I was appointed for the school as building owners surveyor; and, in accordance with section 6(1) of the Act, notice was served on one of the adjoining owners, Transport For London.
As part of agreeing the Party Wall Award with the adjoining owner's surveyor, and in order to protect the interest of both parties, a Schedule of Condition was undertaken of the adjacent London Underground line prior to works commencing. In this instance, however, it was no normal schedule of condition...
Due to the operational restrictions of the London Underground, we were required to undertake the inspection during night hours when the rolling stock was no longer rattling up and down the tracks and the city was fast asleep recharging for the next day.
Dressed in full reflective orange personal protective equipment, we walked down the torch-lit tracks from Sloane Square Station, navigating our way on foot, escorted by our Transport For London representative and their appointed surveyor along the granite-lined metal tracks until we reached the open shaft adjacent to our appointing owner's site.
The next hours were spent carefully recording the existing condition of the grand traditional soot-stained Victorian brickwork walls and buttresses forming the 12m high structure of the London Underground that lines the adjacent school site.
By meticulously photographing and recording the condition of each brickwork bay and towering piers (chalked with corresponding numbers for identification purposes), The Schedule of Condition could be referred to upon completion to assess whether any damage occurred as part of the notifiable works.
The window of respite for the tracks is limited, so we were under strict timescales to complete the inspection and emerge to the surface for another day in the life of a Party Wall Surveyor.