Law Commission Publishes Rights To Light Recommendations

New Proposals Put Forward To Reform Procedure and Legislation


The Law Commission has published its final report and draft Bill related to rights to light.

A right to light is a legal right to receive light through defined apertures in a building. Such a right can often be extremely valuable to the landowner who can seek to frustrate development of adjoining land if that development would substantially interfere with the right.

The final report is the conclusion of a process which began in March 2012 and involved the publication of a consultation paper in February 2013. The report includes several key changes to the existing law and proposals to introduce new statutory regulations.

Among these is the introduction of a statutory notice procedure which would mean landowners require neighbours to tell them within a certain time period if they intend to seek an injunction to protect a right to light. If the neighbour failed to serve such notice they would lose the potential for that remedy to be granted and be left only with a damages claim.

Other recommendations include a statutory test to clarify when courts may order damages to be paid rather than halting development or ordering demolition, an updated procedure allowing landowners to prevent neighbours from gaining rights to light by prescription and an amendment of the law governing where an unused right to light is treated as abandoned.

The final recommendation includes a power for the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal to discharge or modify obsolete or unused rights to light.

Expert Opinion
After a long process, it is welcome to see the Law Commission publish its findings on this issue. Such changes have been under discussion for a number of years and it will be interesting to see how this progresses, particularly considering the General Election is taking place next year.

"Ultimately, if introduced the changes could transform this important area of property law for developers, as the notice procedure would provide certainty within a short period of time as to whether an injunction to prevent the development could be granted.

"The proposed statutory test in relation to damages in lieu of an injunction is also welcome and takes account of the recent Supreme Court’s decision in Coventry –v- Lawrence which would be welcome by developers."
Christopher Perrin, Partner