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Archive for March, 2013

Responding to the Light

As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the Law Commission has issued its consultation paper on Rights to Light.  The close date for responses is 16 May 2013.  It considers in detail private law easements of light building on the work already conducted by the Commission for its Report on Easements (June 2011).  It make no proposals in respect of planning law.

Prompted by the decision in the Heaney case (see our News June 2012) the Commission states its prime aim is “to investigate whether the law by which rights to light are acquired, enforced and extinguished provides an appropriate balance between the important interests of landowners and the need to facilitate the effective and efficient use of land through its development”.  In so doing, the Commission has produced its provisional proposals with three objectives in mind:

  • making the law more certain and disputes easier and quicker to resolve
  • ensuring that rights to light do not act as an unnecessary constraint on development
  • but that the important amenity value of rights to light remains protected.

The provisional proposals are set out in the Commission’s summary as

  • acquiring future rights to light by prescription will no longer be possible
  • a new statutory test clarifying when courts may order damages instead of an injunction preventing construction of a building which interferes with a right to light
  • a new statutory notice procedure requiring those with the benefit of a right to light to make clear whether they intend to seek an injunction - the present uncertainty is perceived by the Commission to cause delay at huge cost to the developer and
  • extinguishment by the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal of obsolete rights to light, with appropriate compensation, as presently with restrictive covenants.

Additionally, the Commission seeks views on other areas too although to date, it has made no provisional proposals.  These include when an obstruction of light is actionable as a nuisance, how damages granted in lieu of an injunction are calculated and the law on abandonment.

The Consultation Paper is lengthy but if one intends to respond to the issues raised, essential reading.  Want to hear more?  Why not contact Hatherleigh Training?