An interview with Shirley Waldron

An interview with Shirley Waldron

In this episode, Shirley Waldron of Delva Patman Redler talks about her work with Crossrail and how the Crossrail Act affected the application of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996.

Shirley also gives her views on the effectiveness of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996, its failings and what kind of amendments could be put forward and her opinion on whether all leaseholders are entitled to service of notice for works under section 6 of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996.

You can also watch this interview on YouTube.


Philippe: Hi and welcome to another edition of Party Wall PRO the Podcast. I’ve got Shirley Waldron with me today from Delva Patman Redler. Shirley has a bit of a different background which is quite interesting. She’s an architect from training and got sucked into the party wall world. Shirley, welcome. Thanks for joining us. So let’s get into how you ended up there from being a chartered architect and then party wall.

Shirley: Yes. OK. Well, I had wanted to do architecture from a very young age. I think in that way, I was quite lucky because most of my friends didn’t know what they wanted to do. A lot of my fellow students didn’t know what they wanted to do and some people just kind of drifted into whichever career sort of took them in whichever direction. But I was very lucky I think in that I knew I wanted to do architecture from about age 11 or so like that. So every decision I made really took me in that direction which meant that I focused on the relevant A levels, and then got into architecture at university. I was at Brighton College for my A levels and in Brighton at the local polytechnic, they had the School of Architecture, which is now of course Brighton University. I was very lucky to have some very good lecturers and tutors there and it was great to do what I wanted to do. I stayed in Brighton to do my year out. I don’t know if everyone is aware but architecture is a seven-year course. You have a three-year degree course. You do a year in private practice or even in government practice. You go back to university to do a diploma and then you do a final year in practice and then you can do your part three. I did all my training in Brighton and I did my year out as well in Brighton and it was only when I finally got my diploma that I wanted to do something different and I went to live in Gilford and I worked for an architecture practice in Gilford. In fact I worked for all three at the time, Scott Brownrigg, Lewis and Hickey and Norman and Dawbarn and that was very interesting. I worked on some MOD projects, I worked on – for Scott Brownrigg – Terminal 2 Manchester Airport and just at that time, CAD was coming through and I was on one of the very first training programs in Cambridge. The training course was a week long actually, and it was done by McDonnell Douglas, the aircraft manufacturers, the engineers and they were on this course which was GDS and it was actually a very impressive tool, which then subsequently became Micro GDS and there were various other offshoots to that, Auto CAD, et cetera, and it kind of took on a life of its own. But yes, I was one of the very first people to train as a CAD technician as a qualified architect. I did that for years actually. I had a stint in Singapore where I worked for a firm of architects and that was by choice. I went to live in Singapore for three years and I did architecture there and I then stopped doing architecture because I was having too much fun and I decided I was going to teach English and I did that. I taught English to mostly Japanese students. But doing that meant I could dictate my own terms really and my own calendar. It kind of freed me up. I ran my own business there basically, teaching English to mostly Japanese students, which was quite an eye-opener. Actually it was a great place to live. Everything worked. It was very clean and everything functioned and yet it was all in the middle of the most amazing travel opportunities to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and I visited all those places and it was great fun.

Philippe: Nice. You did that for how long, sorry?

Shirley: Yeah. So I was there for three years. I wish I had stayed a little longer. It was completely different from England, as you can probably imagine, and one thing that was kind of a bit depressing was that there were no seasons. So it was never cold and dry or warm and wet. It was always very hot and very wet or very, very hot and very, very wet and actually it always got light at 7:30 in the morning and dark at 7:30 in the evening. There were no seasons like we have here, which is something fun. Anyway, the other thing about Singapore is that it is very transient. Everyone was always just passing through and you would make friends and then they would leave and eventually it was time for me to leave. I have actually still got some friends in Singapore who I would love to go and visit.

Philippe: Yeah, nice. And then decided to come back…

Shirley: Yeah, I came back to work for architects. I went to work for Scott Brownrigg and Turner and then there was a major layoff and I then came into London and I worked for EPR Architects, Elsom Pack & Roberts as they were, but they just shortened their name to EPR and in fact I think there were none of the original partners around at that time. I worked on some interesting projects there. And then I met my partner there and I left very shortly before my child was born, Emma. She’s now 19 years old. So really that was when my life changed from architecture when I came back after having Emma. I started my own business as an architect. I did a few project management jobs. I worked as a building control officer – I worked for Wandsworth Borough Council because it was something that I really fancied doing and that was a very interesting part of my career, very steep learning curve actually because there’s a huge difference between – even though I’ve had a fair amount of site experience, to actually be a person who makes a decision on things like foundations and whether to sign off a job. You have to make critical inspections for the projects and my patch was Tooting which was a slightly rough area of London where people were trying to do all sorts of things that they shouldn’t have been doing. You kind of flew by the seat of your pants a bit and that was very interesting. But then I met a gentleman who was working for GIA at the time, a chap called Michael Deason and he very kindly made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse and that was me working in party walls and it has been that way ever since. I carried on with my own practice for a while. But I was soon working fulltime at GIA and there we go.

Philippe: So it’s GIA the culprit then.

Shirley: Yes, GIA is entirely responsible.

Philippe: That must have been a funny switch though. You obviously you had an interest in party wall and were doing party wall before…

Shirley: I’ve done a very, very small amount. Yeah, hardly anything but it just shows that you could pick it up as part of a team. I was not on my own to start with. I mean that would probably have been too risky. But you work as a team and eventually you become the named surveyor and you build confidence, I suppose, in your own abilities which means that you kind of are able to take that on.

Philippe: Yeah. And then how did you manage to get from there to now being famous for working for Crossrail?

Shirley: OK. Infamous perhaps. I don’t know if famous – all right. I will have that. Yeah. So it was in 2009 I recall. We were just moving down to Brighton, moving back out of London. We decided that we wanted to move to Brighton for personal reasons. In fact my daughter was at a good place at Brighton College and it was too good an opportunity to turn down. So we made a decision to move back out to Brighton, which we felt was going to be an opportunity to grow the business because I still had the architect practice going and my partner Rodrigo, he was working for the practice as an architect, you see. So it suited us to perhaps move out to Brighton and just try and grow the practice down there. I would commute into work on my party wall projects, which didn’t quite work out exactly like that. But we still worked in London, in fact most of our business was still in London because that’s where the money was and that’s where our clients were. So I commuted in. We bought a house in Brighton that we did a lot of work to. So that’s another area where our joint skills as knowledgeable in construction became very useful. We bought up a house that needed a lot of work done to it and we did that work to it and that’s where we live now. So to then I suppose become involved in Crossrail, I had a friend who worked for Crossrail. In fact he was one of the stakeholders in Crossrail and he rang me one day and said, “Shirley, Crossrail doesn’t really know what their obligations are with regard to party wall matters.”

Philippe: That’s a nice phone call to get.

Shirley: Yeah, no. I find it quite astounding actually that there was so little internal knowledge about party wall matters in Crossrail and that they needed somebody to tell them what they had to do. They were under the impression because the Crossrail Act – in fact dissapplies a lot of legislation including planning and various others. I’m not exactly sure. So I would rather not say exactly what legislation it disapplies. But it did disapply section 6 of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 because of the tunnelling. When you’ve got 17 kilometres of tunnelling, you have to do something which eliminates the need to serve notice on every free holder, lease holder within six metres of the tunnel and replace it with something different and that’s what they did. The Crossrail Act replaced it with a mechanism whereby people could have schedules of condition, done of their properties and then report if there was any damage and have the damage made good. There were certain properties that were protected by inspections and reports, so that Crossrail could fully understand the risks to those particular properties. But the Crossrail Act did not disapply work for section 2 or section 1 of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 and in fact it didn’t disapply section 3, which is the requirement to serve notice under section 2. So for demolition so whereby Crossrail would compulsorily purchase properties, they would then have to go about demolishing them using the mechanisms, which the Party Wall Act provided and there was one particular property which was at Bond Street, Eastern Ticket Hall and it was 20 Hanover Square, which had a particular undertaking and that was a signed agreement between the owners of 20 Hanover Square and (they called it) the “undertaker”. They didn’t even know who the undertaker would be, in fact, it was Crossrail and Crossrail was made up of the secretary of state for transport and Transport for London, a combined government body. But at that time when they signed the undertaking, they didn’t know who – when they signed the deed of agreement, they didn’t know who was – who Crossrail were. They did not even exist as an entity. So Crossrail didn’t really know what their obligations were with regard to the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996, they were under misapprehension that people would consent to notices because why wouldn’t they. And they wanted to start works. So it was all a bit of a rush. They needed advice and they needed to know where they stood. So I told them that they needed to appoint a party wall surveyor and they had a list of TFL approved surveyors. There was a chap called Matt Walker from AKS Ward who was appointed by TFL as party wall surveyor for that one particular site. They needed to do a huge amount of work because 20 Hanover Square was a grade two listed property and they knew they wanted to demolish the compulsory purchased buildings 18 and 19 Hanover Square that they had acquired. That’s how I got on board really. I would happily have stayed working for Crossrail and advised them on their obligations under the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996, but this was a slightly different opportunity which came my way which was to work for Matt Walker at AKS Ward and together we served all the notices for east and west and also for Fisher Street where there was an air shaft and an access shaft that they needed to construct. So it was those projects that I got involved in and just to kind of wind back a bit, the undertaking between Crossrail and GPE was that, even though the Party Wall Act had been disapplied, there were other mechanisms that Crossrail were relying on to protect adjoining owners. The undertaking specifically requested the reapplication of the Party Wall Act to protect 20 Hanover Square. The owners of 20 Hanover Square who were Great Portland Estate and still are, appreciated that there was really only one mechanism by which they were going to be truly protected and that was the Party Wall Act. So they did. That’s really how I got into Crossrail and it was extraordinary. The things that I learned, the things that I became involved in were amazing and very informative and I have written a couple of Crossrail papers for Whispers which is the P&T publication.

Philippe: How does that work? So the Crossrail Act disapplied section six but not section three.

Shirley: Yeah.

Philippe: And this is how they managed to actually get protection under the Party Wall Act. It’s – was that the deficiency of the Crossrail Act or was that on purpose?

Shirley: On purpose. They had to disapply section 6 because of tunnelling. This was a specific deed which 20 Hanover Square owners had with Crossrail because when you see the site, when you see the proximity of 20 Hanover Square to the excavations, the tunnelling, the cross passages, the five-level basement, all the piling and the excavation and they needed to keep that building working, I mean it was occupied by leaseholders and tenants. They needed that to continue. They had a glass dome over the staircase which was identified to be an at risk structure and at one point, there was actually a frame, a steel frame inside the main entrance of this listed building to support the dome and the party wall because the party wall was still being used by 20 Hanover Square and it needed to be braced, it needed to be strengthened because it wasn’t connected to the party wall. What happened was they actually inserted these Cintec anchors into the wall, through the party wall and into the cross walls to hold them together. Plus also the front and rear walls of the high level section of the building. If you saw it, you would better understand. Everything had to be connected up and strengthened and then braced with some steel bracing to withstand the wind pressures to which it would now become exposed and that all happened through the Party Wall Act.

Philippe: And after AKS Ward?

Shirley: That was probably about 10 years’ worth of my career doing the tunnelling and the excavations there, the grout shafts and the tube a Manchette which was one of the protection mechanisms that Crossrail had designed. Well, they haven’t designed it but they implemented them where you have grout shafts to basically compensate the settlement of the buildings and that was all very interesting to be involved in that. Really I mean the tunnelling completed a couple of years ago, my involvement in Crossrail has really only just in the last four months ceased to be because I did actually work one day a week for Crossrail and the remaining four days a week for Delva Patman Redler and I’ve been at Delva Patman Redler now for about four years.

Philippe: So what’s the next big project?

Shirley: We do have some amazing projects in our books. There are lots of basement excavations out there which need careful handling but there are no bigger basements than Crossrail. When I was at GIA, of course, we were involved in two or three-story basements as well going full length and that sort of thing. A lot of party wall surveyors will be familiar with that desire of building owners to develop full length of their garden down three levels, so that they can take full advantage of space.

Philippe: There’s a lot of discussions around whether the Party Wall Act should be amended or repealed. There’s a lot of stuff that needs updating in the Party Wall Act. What’s your opinion on that? What’s your opinion on the effectiveness of the act, its failings and what kind of amendments would you push forward if you could?

Shirley: I think you need to have a look at case law I think in this situation because the Party Wall Act came into being in 1996. There was very little case law initially and only recently it is coming at us. Not monthly perhaps but certainly maybe every two months, there’s new case law that comes forward. When you look at it, you can see that people are becoming more litigious. They don’t like being told what to do by party wall surveyors and that’s where you get awards being appealed. They don’t understand perhaps that they need to step back and allow the Party Wall Act to do its work, so that they can then carry on with their own development. People fall out, neighbours at war is a major reason for so much case law, the conduct of party wall surveyors, thankfully very few, but aggressively some party wall surveyors particularly when it comes to their enrichment at the expense of developers. It’s quite unfortunate. You have got an act of parliament which a lot of people have said is actually an extremely good mechanism and I think there’s a desire to roll it out on other disputes particularly in boundary determinations, so you can appoint your own surveyor. The mechanisms of the Party Wall Act are very tried and tested and do seem to work if they’re allowed to. But we have moots for example on issues like “are all leaseholders entitled to service of notice for works under section 6 of the Party Wall Act” and I think that that perhaps does need to be more clearly spelled out by the Party Wall Act.

Philippe: Yeah, exactly. So what’s the issue there?

Shirley: A lot of people say that if you’re a leaseholder, you only own (and it does depend on the terms of the lease) the plaster finish of your flat. Therefore you don’t have any interest in the structure. You’re not entitled to see the section six notice. But of course you just need to look at the Party Wall Act to see that an owner owns the space and they’re entitled to the maintenance of the structural integrity of that space and therefore they’re entitled to a notice. In my mind there’s no doubt. Some people say, “Well, that flat has no foundation.” But they are nevertheless above the excavations. So you’re excavating below their demise and that’s I think the key to it. There’s another area where I think the act could be clearer and that’s when it defines a line of junction, a boundary. We think of it as a line, a line on the ground perhaps. But I think it would be much clearer and perhaps better to think of it as a two-dimensional plane and the boundary is a two-dimensional plane or be it an imaginary plane. I think that would clear up a lot of things because structures – because they have three dimensions of course and that second dimension, the height, is critical I think to understanding how structures can interrelate on boundaries. On that, I think things like raising on a cantilever, that would give you rights of access to do that. It would give you rights of access to – if you had a single-story building on a boundary built up to the line of junction and you wanted to add a story, it would give you rights of access to do that and I don’t really see the problem with that. I think there’s also perhaps a case to be made for a building owner to be able to demolish a wall on a boundary and have the rights of access to that, particularly given that when he does that or she does that, you just need to say or to wait perhaps a day or two, say there’s no structure on the line of junction or on the plane of junction and here’s my section one notice and you have rights of access for doing any work that you want to do on the boundary in that way. So I think to be able to say to a building owner, yes, you have rights of access to demolish your boundary wall and then you have rights of access to reconstruct your wall anyway, I think that would be very useful and given that the act is a facilitative one to developers or be it acknowledging of course that they have to protect the adjoining owners, that would be a natural progression I think for me. There’s also the other issue when people raise a wall on a cantilever and they build just up to the line of junction. What happens then? Do any structures that may exist on the boundary below that cantilever – and I think that in that particular instance and in other instances, perhaps there could be provisions within the Party Wall Act to safeguard adjoining owners for the future development of their own land. A lot of surveyors will say, well, we’re not interested in the future development aspirations of the adjoining owner. We’re interested in what the building owner wants to do. But I think that’s very short-sighted and these things do come back to bite you, particularly the basement excavations. Quite often you will find that you’re acting for the Building Owner and you are doing that to the Adjoining Owner and, oops, all those decisions that you made perhaps have come home to roost. That’s what the act could do, be redrafted perhaps to prevent chickens coming home to roost and make sure they fly away forever.

Philippe: Introducing statutory fines?

Shirley: There is definitely a case to be made for non-compliance with the Party Wall Act. If you decide for any reason that you’re not going to serve a notice and just go ahead and do the work anyway, there should be a fine, I think. Equally, if you decide to just set aside the award and ignore it and carry on without the award in place, then I think there should be a fine for that. I do know the case in Brighton where a house actually fell down when the award was ignored.

Philippe: Because currently the only remedy you have is to go to court and that’s going to cost the adjoining owner money.

Shirley: I actually don’t think that you can avoid – in those very serious situations, you can’t avoid court. I think that lawyers definitely have a very important role to play in – surveyors, particularly where building owners are determined not to invoke the Party Wall Act. A letter from a lawyer can work magic.

Philippe: And all this, so you think that the RICS 7th edition will give us, will shed some light on certain things? I wanted to try to get someone on the podcast to cover that. Who do you think I should invite who would know about that.

Shirley: Yeah. So you’ve already interviewed Andrew Schofield, haven’t you?

Philippe: I have.

Shirley: What about Mark Harrington? You could perhaps speak to him or I mean Andy was – was Andy not involved in the redrafting of those guidance notes?

Philippe: Yeah.

Shirley: I thought he was because…

Philippe: I think. I think, yeah. Jack Norton as well, I think.

Shirley: Yes, exactly. They’re going to be doing a roadshow, aren’t they? Going around the country and telling people about the new guidance notes. So I think perhaps – yeah, you could speak to them about that. I have to say regrettably I was not involved in those discussions.

Philippe: No, next – 8th edition maybe.

Shirley: Yeah. Eighth edition. Yeah.

Philippe: Shirley, thank you so much for your time.

Shirley: OK. You’re welcome.

Philippe: It was great. I’m going to have to cut you short here because otherwise, we’re going to be here for too long.

Philippe: And yeah, it was really good. Anything else you want to add from a technology expert? Yeah. You should really try Party Wall Pro I think and give me some feedback.

Shirley: OK, OK.

Philippe: Alistair back then actually had a look at the mock-ups.

Shirley: Yes. I’ve got no doubt that it’s of great assistance to a lot of people and the one thing I suppose is a – that I would slightly hesitate is – everything has to be bespoke really, doesn’t it? You have to – you can’t really use pro formas or templates.

Philippe: But we do actually – that’s the thing. We do offer customisation of everything.

Shirley: Yeah, exactly. I think of course pro formas and templates are a very good place to start. But you have to know exactly what you’re doing I think.

Philippe: Yes, bye.

Shirley’s firm: Delva Patman Redler


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