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  6. Law Commission launches ‘rights to light’ review

Law Commission launches ‘rights to light’ review

The Law Commission has announced a review of the rights to light. This exercise will begin in earnest next year and will involve a consultation paper in 2013 and the possibility of a report and legislation in the shape of a draft bill by late 2014 or early the following year.

The legal body will focus on whether the current law by which rights to light are acquired and enforced provides an appropriate balance between those benefiting from the rights and those wishing to develop land in the vicinity.

This initiative will examine the interrelationship between the planning system and rights to light, and whether the remedies available to the courts are “reasonable, sufficient and proportionate”.

The Commission’s announcement will come as welcome news to developers, said Jennifer Chappell, an associate with legal practice Bircham Dyson Bell LLP.

She explained the review should deal with the effect of the fallout from the Heaney rights to light case which had created uncertainty for developers over whether damages were the only means of recompense or if removal of the structure was also a legitimate possibility.

“It’s long overdue and in the wake of the Heaney case, it really couldn’t have come at a better time for the developers,” she said.

“There are projects in the City of London that are being slowed by the fallout from the Heaney case; the Walkie Talkie building being one such project – so the Commission’s announcement that it will reassess the system and the laws will be music to developers’ ears.”

She added: “The law must be updated and be made clearer so that all parties know the boundaries of what they can and can’t do around rights to light.”

See the Law Commission 11th Programme of Law Reform, page 19.


Roger Milne

18 August 2014