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We came up with a bizarre way to save thousands on our energy bills – our neighbours HATE it but we don’t care

LOCALS have hit out at a house covered in a climbing plant saying it now desperately needs a trim.

Michael and Teresa Lye moved into their home almost four decades ago and even then it was covered in the Virginia creeper.

Triangle News
Michael and Teresa Lye moved into their home almost four decades ago[/caption]
Their property is a local landmark in the borough of Bromley, south London
Triangle News
Mark Philpot, 59, said he thought the house looked strange[/caption]

But although the property is a local landmark in the borough of Bromley, south London, locals say it’s time it got the chop.

The retired couple, who are parents of five, bought the property in Downham for £24,000 in 1984.

The estate was apparently opened by a member of the royal family in the late 1920s.

They suggested the houses would look lovely with a bit of Virginia creeper attached to the exterior walls.

Those moving in were given the plants by the council but many chopped theirs down as the years went on.

However the plant went mad on the Lyes’ home covering everything from the edges of the windows to the chimney pots and all of the roof.

It was even growing inside when they purchased the property 40 years ago.

Now the only bits of their semi not covered in the plant are parts of the windows and a small wall area on an extension.

Teresa, who sadly recently lost her husband, said they kept it on the outside because it helped insulate their home – and hopefully made soaring energy bills in recent years cheaper.

But locals now say they aren’t too keen and the home should be stripped back to brick.

Mark Philpot, 59, said he thought the property looked strange among all the other more brutal homes.

“It probably attracts a load of bugs!” he joked.

“I think something like that probably would look nice in a little village but it’s a bit out of place in Downham as it’s very concrete.”

Neighbour Eric Sands, 90, has a long affiliation with the area and said he wasn’t keen but he did sympathise with the Lyes.


SEAN Jones, 44, says everyone loves to look at the five-leaved ivy on the home next door - but he has concerns it's covering up potential problems.

Sean thinks the plant might be getting in between the slates on the roof but because he lives in a council house he isn’t too worried.

When asked if he thinks it’s providing insulation, he said: “I think it’s doing more damage than insulation.

“Only an expert would know if it was going in the cavities. I can imagine it’s a bit more of a worry if it is affecting the cavities.

“It gets to a certain length every year and turns brown in the autumn. I don’t know if he has had any issues, it’s blocking the light maybe.”

He said he saw photos of the house on a local Facebook group and was surprised to see that people were taking an interest in the house all of a sudden.

Sean said: “Someone had put up a picture and the daughter tagged her dad who lives next door and I was like, this has just come out of nowhere.”

He added: “My family moved here 88 years ago and all the time I’ve been an old man it’s been like that.

“They’re the owners so obviously they can do what they like.

“I’d imagine it’d be very difficult to take it all off now as it’ll pull all the tiles up.”

Another local said: “It’s not my thing, green just isn’t my colour. To be honest I think that look is more laziness than planned.

“I’ve been here 26 years and it has always been like that – it’s definitely not my sort of look though.”

And another was slightly more cutting saying: “It’s completely odd. It looks weird.

“It’d look better if they just gave it a trim or took it off the upper parts of the house.

“It needs cutting back – I’m surprised the council hasn’t made them.”

However some living nearby still like it.

How to cut your energy bills

BRITISH Gas engineer, Joanna Flowers, has revealed her top tips to cut your energy bills and says customers could save as much as £103 a year.

Keep devices unplugged

Electronic devices, such as a phone, tablet, TV, dishwasher or washing machine still use energy while on standby whatever the weather.

Joanna said: “You can save around £55 a year just by remembering to unplug them.”

Use a microwave when possible

People can save energy because it’s quicker than using the oven or stove.

Joanna said it’s worth considering a slow cooker too, as they’re one of the most energy-efficient kitchen appliances.

The Energy Saving Trust says that a microwave is more energy efficient than a traditional gas or electric oven.

Do your washing on a cold cycle and reduce runs

Joanna explained that running the washing machine on a 30-degree cycle instead of using higher temperatures and limiting their usage can save you cash.

It is estimated that the typical UK household does 270 loads of washing a year.

If each load takes an average of one hour, then this puts the annual cost of running your washing machine at £91.80.

Switch off the lights

Additionally, people should keep the curtains open and let daylight brighten their room.

Joanna said: “When you need to switch on the lights, get into the habit of only lighting rooms that are being used, and you can save you £20 on your annual energy bills.”

Only heat the hot water needed

The way a boiler is set up can make a difference to how much people can save on their heating bills, especially if they have a combi boiler.

Joanna said: “A boiler’s flow rate shows how much hot water it will be able to send to your taps in one minute.

“By setting the flow rate for the hot water to somewhere between 50°C-60°C, you can ensure you only heat the hot water you need.

“When it’s not as cold outside and you don’t need the house to warm up as quickly, you could also reduce the flow rate for heating to this temperature.”

One added: “I think the owners have become local legends. I always see people taking pictures and slowing down to have a look.

“I like it – it’s a good landmark.”

Virginia creeper is also known as five-leaved ivy and is an aggressive deciduous climbing plant.

While it is not advised to grow ivy on houses, Virginia creeper is less likely to damage brickwork.

However there are some setbacks to allowing it to grow rampantly.

Building surveyor Brien Walker (CORR) from Snow Walker, a specialist period homes building surveyor, said: “Virginia creeper is not generally considered to be damaging to traditional house materials per se, but as with most things that is all a matter of degree.

“This level of growth will probably trap water underneath on the flatter surfaces and probably excessively dry out the vertical ones.

“Moisture retention, or conversely the lack of it, could well damage the surfaces even if the plant does not.”

What are your rights over neighbouring hedges?

By Marc Shoffman

OVERGROWN hedges are a common source of neighbourly disputes, but what are your rights if your neighbour’s hedge is taking over your garden?

Hedges do have benefits for homeowners as they provide security, as well as shade and a home for wildlife.

But an overgrown hedge from the next door garden can be a nuisance.

It may block the light and sunshine into your garden, which can be pretty annoying in the summer.

Plus, your garden could be messed up with its dropped leaves and twigs.

So what are your rights?

If you’re in a disagreement with your neighbours over their hedge, there are some steps you can take to try to get the situation sorted.

A useful first port of call is the government guidance on hedge heights, which lays out the rules on when a garden growth has gotten out of control.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) suggests that homeowners should use this guidance first before involving lawyers.

It said: “Where you feel that a hedge is too tall and affects the ‘reasonable’ enjoyment of your house or garden, the first step is to negotiate with your neighbours. 

“Keep a copy of any letters to demonstrate you have tried.”

If this fails, you can contact your local council to enquire about using the high hedges legislation. 

You can find your local council using the website.

There is no guarantee your council will intervene, and there is a fee for making a complaint, typically £400, to deter frivolous applications.

Your local authority will consider both sides’ cases and make a decision.

If the council accepts your complaint, it will issue a notice for the hedge to be cut to a requested height by a set deadline.

Councils have the power to fine homeowners up to £1,000 if they refuse to comply with orders to cut hedges back.

But the neighbour is also able to appeal the decision.

Even if the hedge is within the legal height, your neighbour is responsible for maintaining it so it doesn’t damage your property.

You are also able to trim back any overgrown parts of the hedge that are covering your own boundary, according to Citizens Advice.

But don’t be tempted to trim the whole hedge down – if you are cutting it back you should also check if it’s protected by a tree preservation order.

There is also the option of getting legal advice and taking your neighbour to court if the issue can’t be resolved, but this can be pricey.

Triangle News
Teresa said they kept it on the outside because it helped insulate their home[/caption]
Triangle News
Neighbour Eric Sands, 90, said he wasn’t keen but he did sympathise with the Lyes[/caption]

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