A right to light is a right to receive uninterrupted light, passing across neighbouring land, into a window. If a building owner has a right to light and the path of light is obstructed, then a remedy may be sought through the courts.
Obstruction of window is a breach of planning: Wrong
How a development will affect the path of light to neighbouring properties is often something considered by planning departments when choosing whether or not to grant planning permission. However, once planning permission is granted, so long as the construction complies with the permission and any conditions imposed, it ceases to be a planning issue.
Your land has a right to light: Wrong
A right to light can only be acquired for light passing through a ‘defined aperture’ in a building (e.g. a window). A new construction on a neighbouring property which blocks light to a garden or grounds will not obstruct a right to light unless it also blocks light which passes through a window which benefits from a right to light.
My house is 100 years old, it must have a right to light: Wrong
A right to light may be acquired in a number of ways, one of which is enjoying the right for 20 years without interruption or permission; known as prescription. So it is true that the longer a building has stood, the more likely it is to have acquired a right to light, but it is by no means a certainty.
The window may have been moved during works to the building, or a previous owner may have received some form of permission to receive the light across the neighbouring land, a light obstruction notice may have been registered with the local authority. All of these things may defeat a claim that a right to light exists.
If I win in court my neighbour will have to demolish the construction: Wrong
If a right to light is obstructed with then the court can make an order that the offending building be demolished/removed to a level where it no longer does this. However, this is a discretionary order and an order to pay damages may be made instead.
In making their decisions, the court will take into account a number of factors such as whether the neighbour was made aware of the right before construction, whether there was an unreasonable delay in bringing the claim, the costs of removing the new construction.
At Morrisons, we specialise in obtaining and defending this type of application. If you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog, please feel free to contact Matthew Hearsum or Kate Cooper at our Woking office.