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‘Difficult Balance Must Be Struck’ Over Right To Light

Consultation Launched To Assess Easement And Its Impact


By Rob Dixon

The reaction to the Law Commission’s decision to open a consultation on the issue of a ‘right to light’ has highlighted the “difficult balance” that needs to be struck for both property owners and developers, according to legal expert.

Set to run until May 16th, the consultation has been launched after other recent work by the body highlighted the need for a specific review of the right to light, which can give a landowner the right to receive light into their property.

The concept exists to ensure that landowners are able to enjoy natural light, which in turn increases the value and usefulness of the property. However, the right also means that others could be prevented from undertaking construction work which may impact on it. This could range from the building of an extension to a house to the multi million pound development of offices, shops or a block of flats.

In its consultation, the Law Commission has proposed new measures including changing the law which means that people can acquire such rights through long use. Another change would see the introduction of a statutory test to clarify the circumstances in which a landowner whose right to light has been breached will only be entitled to damages rather than an order that the building obstructing the right to light is taken down.

Danny Revitt, a Partner and expert in property litigation at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office, said the issue needs to be dealt with carefully for several reasons.

He explained: “The right to light is an important issue in both a residential and commercial property sense and can have a considerable impact on property values.

“However, there is a difficult balance that needs to be addressed here – between the need for the creation of new offices, shops and homes which could stimulate the economy, creating jobs and wealth, and the need to protect existing property owners who would be affected by such projects.

“This issue will be watched closely by homeowners, developers and businesses alike, so it will be interesting to see the conclusions that the Law Commission draw when the consultation ends.”

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