The Law Commission published its anticipated Consultation Paper on Rights to Light on 18th February. Its investigation into the issue of rights to light seems to have been prompted by the Department for Communities and Local Government, who expressed an interest following the Heaney judgment, where the court granted an injunction requiring partial demolition of a building, rather than awarding damages.
The report intimates that rights to light have a disproportionately negative impact upon the potential for the development of land. The primary aim of the report is “to investigate whether the law by which rights to light are acquired, enforced and extinguished provides an appropriate balance between the important interests of landowners and the need to facilitate the effective and efficient use of land through its development”.
The report contains four main proposals in respect of the construction of new buildings:
- abolishing the ability to acquire a right to light through long use (prescription);
- introducing a statutory test for when to grant an injunction or award damages;
- introducing a statutory notice procedure, requiring a person with the benefit of a right to light to say if they intend to apply to court for an injunction halting the development; and
- enabling the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal to extinguish obsolete rights to light and award compensation, as it can now do with restrictive covenants.
The full report is published online - see Law Commission website. Responses must be given by 16 May 2013.