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Ignoring rights to light can cost developers dear

KWB Commercial Property Consultants

Ignoring a neighbouring property’s rights to light can be very expensive for developers, from paying compensation, to losing planning permission, and even having to take down parts of a new building.

There are so many issues to deal with on new developments that developers can easily overlook the impact their planned new building will have on the light enjoyed by nearby properties.

Neighbouring buildings can have a claim if they have been standing for more than 20 years and have acquired a right to light.

Even if the light in only one room is impacted, there is a case for compensation, or removal of the new building.

It’s all set out in the 1832 Rights to Light Act,” explains Mr Kamangira who undertakes rights to light surveys for both planned and existing buildings to assess liabilities.

If a neighbour brings a case and wins, which is almost certain following an appropriate survey from a rights to light surveyor, then for a commercial building the court will most often award monetary compensation.

However, it can also result in an order to remove the offending part of the new building, or if it has not yet been built, the overturning of planning permission.

I was recently asked to undertake a retrospective rights to light survey on a building by new investors and my assessment is that it faces a potential liability of more than £100,000, if the neighbours choose to complain about their loss of light which they can do at any time, as there is no time limit on claims.

However, in a case in Leeds a developer was ordered by the courts to remove part of two floors of an office block, at an estimated cost of between £1m and £2.5m because they infringed a neighbour’s light, while in London a successful case undertaken by a pub saw planning permission overturned by the court for a new neighbouring three-storey building with commercial uses on the ground floor and six flats above.