The Gueterbock

Multi-millionaire neighbours scrap over a 12-inch ‘land grab’

UK News

Multi-millionaire neighbours are locked in a court fight over a 12-inch ‘land grab’ that could see a brand new £3million house partially demolished and moved by a foot.

Tom Gueterbock and his wife, Helen, say their neighbours encroached on their land when they built a luxurious new home on what was once a Luftwaffe bomb site next-door.

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.

The Gueterbock’s claim the home next door (left) encroaches on their land by 12 inches

Alex MacPhail

Tom Gueterbock and his wife, Helen

Mr Gueterbock and his wife (pictured right) are now suing in an attempt to get Mr MacPhail (pictured left) to move the outer wall of the house back from theirs by about a foot and partially fill in his basement

The multimillion pound houses of web developer Thomas Gueterbock and his wife, Helen (right) and their neighbour, motivational speaker, Alex MacPhail (second right) in, Wandsworth.

The multimillion pound houses of web developer Thomas Gueterbock and his wife, Helen (right) and their neighbour, motivational speaker, Alex MacPhail (second right) in, Wandsworth.

The original planning application for the property constructed by the McPhail's

The original planning application for the property constructed by the McPhail’s

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.

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.

Tom Gueterbock and his wife, Helen, are demanding that Alex MacPhail, 52, and his former wife, Helen, he partly fill in his basement and move his house further away

Tom Gueterbock and his wife, Helen, are demanding that Alex MacPhail, 52, and his former wife, Helen, he partly fill in his basement and move his house further away

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 27 metre long basement area beneath.

‘In about 2014, Mr and Mrs MacPhail and their associates took over Henderson Court Ltd,’ Mr Page told the judge.

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

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

‘Mr and Mrs MacPhail then took the housing plot adjacent to Mr and Mrs Gueterbock’s.

‘The company then demolished the flats and built houses, ostensibly reinstating what was there before.

‘The works ran between November 2015 and October 2018.

‘But Mr and Mrs MacPhail went further than what was there before.

‘In between, they narrowed the alleyway above ground and they dug it out below, right up to the flank wall of Mr and Mrs Gueterbock’s house – a ‘land grab’.’

Mr Gueterbock, 50, – who is son of Labour peer, The Lord Berkeley – 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.

Mr MacPhail, now a professional motivational speaker, pictured, 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

Mr MacPhail, now a professional motivational speaker, pictured, 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

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.

‘They stood by and allowed the development to proceed, knowing that the company and the MacPhails believed – mistakenly, on the Gueterbocks’ case – that the plans submitted to the council in support of the planning application correctly showed the location of the boundary,’ he says.

‘If, which is denied, the Gueterbocks are the legal owners of the western half of the passageway, it would be unconscionable for them now to insist on their rights of ownership.’

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 is son of Labour peer, Anthony Gueterbock, 18th Baron Berkeley, who sits in the House of Lords as The Lord Berkeley.

Mr MacPhail was a successful commodities broker but is now a professional motivational speaker and conference host, appearing at events all over the world.


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