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Please note, all names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.

Mr and Mrs Smith live on their own in a 2 bedroom house in an inner city area of Bristol, next door to Miss Jones and her partner Mr Green, who had 2 children; boys aged 8 years and 6 years.

In the recent past the families had got along as neighbours, socialising together, going to the pub together, and joining each other at local barbecues in the summer. However, for reasons that neither could really identify, the relationship between them as neighbours had deteriorated, and they were not on speaking terms.

Mr and Mrs Smith had made complaints to the landlord, a local community based Housing Association, that there was excessive banging and noise coming from next door, and as a result of separate discussions between the landlord and each set of neighbours, all agreed that meeting at a neutral venue with a Mediator present would be the best way of starting to resolve the current situation, which was becoming uncomfortable for all concerned.

The case was referred for mediation, and both parties were contacted by the Mediation service, in order to understand each parties’ current position, and also to ensure parties understood the mediation process, and to discuss arranging a mediation appointment.

Parties were informed that the Mediator was impartial and neutral, and would not take sides, judge, or advise ; they were also consulted on the location for the mediation to take place.

On the day of the mediation, Mr and Mrs Smith arrived early, and were given coffee whilst awaiting the arrival of Miss Jones and Mr Green, who arrived at the agreed time.

On arrival both Miss Jones and Mr Green refused any tea or coffee, and took their seats without a word ; the atmosphere was extremely tense from the start.

Following the Mediator’s introductory statement, both parties were given an opportunity to state to their neighbour ( and the Mediator ) what their issues were, and how they felt about these. The Mediator enabled the conversation to remain respectful and focused, ensuring that each party really heard the interests at the root of their neighbours’ concerns.

As a result Mr and Mrs Smith were able to explain why they had rung their landlord ; there had been a lot of banging and screaming from the house, mainly involving what they thought was the 8 year old boy. They said they were apologetic but how else could they have dealt with this when they were so worried about what they were hearing, and did not feel able to approach their neighbour ?

On hearing this, Miss Jones and Mr Green explained the problems that they were having with their little boy, who had severe behavioural problems and who was subject to regular hospital and consultant appointments ; they asked for more understanding. Mr and Mrs Smith had not been aware of this and said ‘ why didn’t you tell us ! ‘

By talking this through further over the course of about an hour, all parties began to understand the issues each other was facing, really worked out how they could help each other in the future, and left saying ;

“If only we had talked to each other before.”