There may be an overlooked factor that can help you prevent your neighbour from building a new housing project or expanding their existing one.

The same goes for extending your home and ensuring that it is not blocked from a neighbor, you may need to be aware of this.

It is a question of whether homeowners have the right to light. This means you are entitled to see light from your home through any existing windows and doors.

This could be an issue separate to planning, and can affect extension plans or neighbours’ extensions even though planning permission was granted.

Homeowners have a legal right to light, which can stop a neighbour building an extension

The legal right of light for homeowners can be used to stop neighbours from building extensions.

To stop development near you or next to you, it is possible to raise concerns about how the proposed development will adversely impact your light.

The planners might not be responsive in the manner you expected. This is why you may need to speak directly with them, or through a solicitor.

Stephen Gold (retired judge and author of The Return of Breaking Law) spoke with us about using a right of lighting effectively. He also shared his tips on how to get in touch with people whose development could block your light.

Are you entitled to the light of truth?

According to Mr Gold, many of us don’t know that we do. Mr Gold suggests that you verify your title documents before you open champagne. They may not include it, especially if the estate is owned.

Natural light entering your home through windows for at least 20 consecutive years is the most common way to gain this right. 

He explained that the light that was enjoyed by former owners would count toward this time. Once the 20-year mark has been reached, nothing formal needs to be done. Enjoy the ride.

What is the value of light?

If plans are going to adversely impact their home, homeowners may be entitled to a right to light. 

Your neighbour could also have the right to see through your windows. This can potentially thwart any development plans.

Their light might be affected by an extension of brick walls or brick walls. 

Gold stated that a small reduction in lighting levels to one room does not constitute a cause for complaint.

“Before the law could come to your rescue, you must show that there was substantial interference to your light. What amount of natural light is left, if any interference occurs? Would that allow you to enjoy your property comfortably?

The current and planned future use of an affected area and the location would both be pertinent. To have any chance of winning a serious dispute over threatened development, an expert surveyor would be required to support you.

'A trifling reduction in the volume of light to a particular room would not justify a complaint,' explains ex-judge Stephen Gold

Ex-Judge Stephen Gold explains that a small reduction in light entering a room’s area would not be grounds for a complaint.

Does the right-to-light completely separate from planning?

Although planning permission could be granted, the development might interfere with an existing right to light after twenty years. 

Some local authorities will consider an interference with the light of objectors who have been in the area for more than 20 years when they decide whether to give permission. However, you can’t rely solely on this.

The fact that permission for planning has been granted doesn’t mean that the building owner can not seek to block the development by the court, provided that they have had 20 years of experience and are legally entitled to do so. 

Are planning permits still possible and can people still have the right to use light to stop working that involves planning?

Mr Gold confirms that this is indeed the case. 

Is it possible to prevent interference? 

Communication is key when you are trying to shut down the person who is trying to steal your joy of the light. 

It doesn’t matter if it is your neighbor, a personal approach can be the best way to keep good relationships. However, you will need to submit a written complaint to formalize your grievance. 

According to Mr Gold, you should email the following: ‘I’ve seen your plans. I have the legal right to view certain windows from my neighboring building. It would be a nuisance if your development violated it. If I do not hear from you within fourteen days, I will file a request for an injunction. 

Mr Gold believes it is possible to make changes to the plans without causing any interference or to settle for cash to alleviate the pain.

The right to the light can make a huge impact

Gold describes a Leeds-based man with a right of light which was being substantially diminished by the redevelopment next to his house. 

An existing block of five stories was going to have two more floors. 

Gold stated that the Leeds man tried to get the redevelopers involved to lower the plan, but they failed to reach a resolution and the redevelopment was allowed to proceed. This man took the huge risk of not appearing in court prior to completion. 

“It was the developers who asked for the judicial approval to the scheme, by declaring that Leeds had lost all legal recourses by failing to take proceedings. 

“The Leeds man later counterclaimed for the injunction and his compensation. Judge ruled that light interference had been so severe that the redevelopers needed to remove the six-thirds and seventh floors. They continued to push despite the fact they were aware that the man opposed what was happening and the impact it would have on his property. After the appeal was denied, the redevelopers made an offer but were never granted.

Don’t miss the opportunity

Gold points out the fact that it must have been continuous for 20 years. The 20 year period can be interrupted in a clever manner. You can still make the offending development before the 20-year-end, provided you have planning permission. However, there’s a more efficient way to interrupt. 

This is done by filing a certificate of light obstruction with your local authority, in accordance to the Rights of Light Act 1959. 

The certificate is applied for to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) at a cost of £1,320. It is considered to be value-for-money as the certificate stops 20 years of accrued time. This is equivalent to an interruption. It means the neighboring property owner must go back to square 1 and start counting for 20 years.

Which one do you want? 

It’s the disrupter, the owner of the property that may want to expand in the future but who also wants to keep their neighbour from having a right-to-light. They seek a certificate before 20 years’ of continuous light enter the neighbour’s property and so interrupt the 20 years. 

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