Rights to light

Rights to light are private property rights; they are not part of planning law. Disputes can arise when a landowner wants to put up a building that may interfere with a neighbour’s right to light. And these disputes can drag on for years, even until after a development has been built.

In our latest report, we are recommending:

  • a statutory notice procedure that means neighbours must tell landowners within a specified time if they intend to seek an injunction to protect their right to light
  • a statutory test to clarify when the courts may order damages to be paid rather than halting development or ordering demolition, and
  • a new power for the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal to discharge or modify obsolete or unused rights to light.

We are also recommending reforms that will update the procedure allowing landowners to prevent neighbours from acquiring rights to light by prescription and clarify the law governing where unused rights to light are treated as abandoned.

Law Commissioner Professor Elizabeth Cooke, said: “Rights to light are important, particularly for homeowners. The law must continue to protect them. But it is essential that the law provides an appropriate balance between the protection of light, and the development of the modern, high-quality residential, office and commercial premises we need in our town and city centres.”