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The long-awaited final report on rights of light was finally published by the Law Commission in December, following the consultation process which ended in May 2013. Running to 241 pages, it’s not a light read – but it does include some draft legislation in the form of the Rights to Light (Injunctions) Bill.
The Law Commission has been assessing whether the current law under which rights to light are acquired, enforced and extinguished provides an appropriate balance between the need for development of land and the interests of neighbouring property owners.
Concerns about this balance were noted by the Law Commission in its report in June 2011 on Easements, Covenants and Profits à Prendre. It concluded that the law on rights of light should have special attention given that they “appear to have a disproportionately negative impact upon the potential for the development of land”.
An illustration of the issue was given in HKRUK II (CHC) Ltd v Heaney (2010), where the court ordered the partial demolition of a building even though the neighbour had delayed in seeking an injunction and many considered that damages might have been an adequate remedy. The Law Commission commented that “the case has had a detrimental effect on the ability of rights to light disputes to be resolved swiftly and amicably.”
In particular, there has been uncertainty as to the circumstances in which the court will and will not grant an injunction. Whilst the House of Lords helpfully took the opportunity in Coventry v Lawrence (2014) to signal that the recent court decisions on assessing whether to grant an injunction had taken a wrong turn, there remain areas of uncertainty for complainants and developers alike.
The Law Commission’s proposals for the reform of rights of light have three key aims:
The key proposals for reforming the law relating to rights of light are:
There is to be no change to the approach for measuring light and whether a right to light has been infringed. The question of how to approach the measure of damages is also presently left open.
It seems unlikely that the report and draft bill will be progressed before the General Election in May 2015.
This article was written by Emma Humphreys.
For more information please contact Emma on +44 (0)20 7203 5326 or email@example.com