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of notice for works to party walls: in one place it is two months, in the other three. Sub-section 4 limits the right to do works to a party wall to six months after service of the three months' notice. This limit of time is rather short: it should be six months after the expiration of the three months' notice, as frequently, in the absence of consent, the first three months is taken up in obtaining the award, without which the building owner has no rights.
Section 78 provides compensation to be paid by building owners to adjoining owners and occupiers for inconvenience as well as for damage occasioned by underpinning, and is crudely drawn. It is doubtful whether it is advisable to provide for such compensation in cases of underpinning only, whilst other operations of a far more serious nature, such as rebuilding the whole wall, carry no such liability. The best way of dealing with this section is to delete it; it can be readily evaded by those who choose to take the trouble of carefully reading the Bill as a whole.
Section 79. (Security to be given by building owner to adjoining owner, and by adjoining owner in certain cases to building owner.) This section is adopted from the present Act, but no provision is made in the Act or in this Bill to determine either the nature or sufficiency of such security.
PART X., Section 102, forbids building on certain lowlying lands without the consent of the London County Council. The building of dwellings which cannot be efficiently drained should, no doubt, be prohibited. There is, very properly, an appeal from the decision of the Council. Seeing that they are interested in purchasing such lands for recreation grounds, or aiding vestries to do so, it would be placing a most dangerous engine of depreciation in the hands of a would-be purchaser, were this appeal not provided. Those interested should keep a sharp look-out that the appeal clause is not quietly dropped.
PART XIII., to a very large extent, gives the Council power to repeal and amend the Act, by means of by-laws and without further recourse to Parliament. This is a most unsatisfactory method; most of us would prefer to have the legislative and administrative functions kept always in separate hands. By this Part the penalties for infringement of the provisions of the proposed Act, and the by-laws to be made under it, are mostly more than doubled, and are made uniform, viz., not exceeding £50, and £5 per day for continuing the offence.
Section 136. Publication of By-laws.—I would suggest that, as well as exhibition at the principal office of the Council, they should be exhibited at the principal offices of the Metropolitan District Boards of Works and Vestries.
PART XIV. Tribunal of Appeal.-I am delighted to find here a proposal to extend the functions of the Tribunal, and wish that all matters now heard before police magistrates could be taken before such building magistrates as are here proposed. It is related of the late Lord Chief Justice COCKBURN that he said the builders made the Building Act, and they had better construe it, for he could not. The police magistrates often take a similar view.
Section 155. The Council are to fix the remuneration of the members of the Tribunal, with the approval of the Treasury. As the Council will be party to every case, it would be more decent if they had nothing to do with the remuneration of the Tribunal.
PART XV., Section 171. Plans, &c., submitted to the Council are to be retained by them. There should be a provision permitting those who submit the plans to take copies at the offices of the Council.
Section 174 provides that, if a contract for the construction of a building be made before the proposed Act becomes operative, the work is to be carried out with the
necessary variations so that the building shall comply with the proposed Act, and that the difference in cost caused by the consequent deviations from the contract shall be paid or adjusted by the parties to the contract, as circumstances require. This may be the cause of very great injustice, e.g., an owner may have contracted to pay for one building which he wants, and be compelled to accept and pay more (or less) for another building which he does not want, and which may be entirely unsuited for his purpose. Such contracts should be allowed to be completed in their original form. If power were given to owners to rescind, the builder might equally suffer by preparing for and purchasing materials for works he might not be permitted to perform. Why should either of these innocent private persons suffer, without public compensation, for the public good?
Section 185 ("Definitions ") requires the insertion of the word "afterwards" or "subsequently" between the words "have" and "become," so as to make clear the meaning of "centre of the road way." The whole section is most important, and requires a more careful examination than space will here permit.
Should the Bill pass into law, architects and surveyors should remember that it does not, as it stands, cover the whole building legislation of the Metropolis, e.g., vide the Factory and Workshops Acts, 1891* (which includes London), as to stairs and other works required in factories where are employed more than 40 persons. This Act applies not only to factories which may be built, but also to those now in existence.
ARTHUR HARSTON, Fellow.
I think we are greatly indebted to the author of this Paper for bringing the subject in such an exhaustive way before the Institution.
Professional Notes," vol. v., p. 444.
I think we all must feel, from the Bill itself, and also from the remarks of the Chairman of the Building Act Committee of the London County Council at the last meeting, that the framers of this Bill are animated by the very best intention to promote the health of the Metropolis and also to remove grievances, but some of us may think that the Bill as it stands is too sweeping and revolutionary
The courteous and wise conduct of the Committee who have the Bill in charge, in taking into their confidence the District Surveyors' Association and this Institution and the Royal Institute of British Architects, and inviting their criticisms at this stage, may go far towards removing the objections to the Bill. Still, there is always a danger that the amendments accepted and adopted by the Committee may not be adopted by the Council at large. Consequently, we can at present only argue on the Bill as it stands in print, and I may be pardoned, perhaps, for mentioning briefly one or two objections which the Committee in charge of the Bill have already promised to take under their consideration.
The first of these is the position of district surveyors, which I maintain would be, as the Bill stands, absolutely untenable. Duties are heaped wholesale upon them, their fees are cut down and no fees at all provided for the majority of works which now require their supervision. This has been fully pointed out to the Committee, and I have no doubt will be altered, as well as some of the following points which have not yet been mentioned.
(1.) On page 91 it is stated that the Bill is to apply to all new buildings, but the great majority of works done to old buildings would escape supervision altogether.
(2.) The difficulty of some of the definitions of a new building has been pointed out by Mr. RICKMAN, but he did not deal with the first definition on page 93, lines 3 to 7,
which any practical man will see, on examination, would be unworkable.
I think most district surveyors are of opinion that the provisions of the present Acts with regard to the thickness of walls have worked well, and that it is undesirable to raise the cost of buildings and rents in the Metropolis by increasing them, and they will also agree with the author of the Paper in his remarks about Section 55, as to height of habitable rooms.
The clauses with reference to open spaces about buildings will probably excite as much criticism as anything in the Bill, and they have been exhaustively dealt with by the author of the Paper. It appears to me that it is very desirable to retain the saving clause in Section 29 of the present Act:--" Unless all the rooms can be lighted and "ventilated from a street or alley adjoining." If all rooms are lighted and ventilated in this way, I see no need for leaving an open space exclusively belonging to the building, often to become a receptacle for dirt and refuse.
I fear that, if all the provisions of this Bill were carried out as they stand, the effect would be so greatly to increase the cost of building and also the value of the ground left available for building purposes, as to lead to a very large increase in rents, and the inevitable result would be that those who must live within the Metropolitan area would have to put up with smaller and fewer rooms and reduced accommodation, a result which would surely be insanitary, and thus the very opposite to that intended by the framers of the Bill.
Some of the provisions in this Bill are greatly needed in view of recent decisions in the Law Courts, which have had the effect of assisting "jerry" builders and some owners to evade the law and to escape supervision altogether, especially in smaller works.
ALEXANDER PAYNE, Fellow.