Housebuilder Top Tip: Rights to Light - Light at the End of the Tunnel for Developers?
Published 11 December 2014
Rights to light have been something of a scourge for developers in recent years following a run of decisions favourable to objectors such as HKRUK II (chc) Ltd v Heaney where injunctions have been awarded. This has meant that buildings either cannot go ahead in a form that infringes the objector's rights, or have had to be cut back so as not to infringe a neighbour's right to light, unless, of course, an expensive out of court settlement is reached with the objector.
However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for developers as the Law Commission published its proposals for reform last week following an 18 month consultation.
The Report recommends the introduction of a statutory test to clarify when damages may be ordered. Other recommendations include the introduction of a requirement on landowners to declare their intention to seek an injunction within 8 months of being served notice, after which an injunction will no longer be granted.
These proposals would cast a ray of light onto an area of law that can sometimes be obscure for developers, although the record would tend to show that such recommendations are slow to find their way into statute. In the meantime, the Supreme Court decision in Coventry v Lawrence offers some hope to developers that the high water mark of unfavourable decisions for developers has been reached, and that the courts should not slavishly apply the test that resulted in the HKRUK decision.