One of the more unusual entitlements that homeowners enjoy is a right to light. Under English common law, this ensures that just over half the room in your property be lit by natural light, and any developments nearby have to take your right to light into account.
A recent high-profile case involving Chelsea FC demonstrates that the law remains on the side of ordinary people whose property is dwarfed by billionaire neighbours.
The Premier League side received planning permission for a £1 billion redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, their west London stadium, which would transform it into a 60,000-seater arena.
The club, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, paid compensation to local residents whose properties would be overshadowed by the new stands, compromising their right to light.
However, one family refused to accept the compensation payment and took out an injunction in May 2017 that stopped the development in its tracks and was the legal equivalent of a yellow card for the cash-rich club.
Claimed development was in ‘public interest’
One way to get circumvent a claim for right of light is where a development is being carried out by a local authority and it can be shown to be in the public interest. Chelsea attempted to get around the injunction by selling the land the stadium stands on to Hammersmith and Fulham Council before leasing it back and arguing before the court that the redevelopment was in the public interest because of wider community benefits, including the creation of affordable housing.
The family challenging the entire project asked for a judicial review of the land sale and leaseback before eventually settling on a mutually agreed compensation deal with Chelsea in March.
While that paved the way for the club to kick on with the new Stamford Bridge plan, the project has instead been red-carded by the club with the “unfavourable investment climate” cited as the reason. The Chelsea owner is also in dispute with the UK government after his application for visa renewal was refused, meaning he cannot work in the UK.
Surveyor can assess potential breach of common law
Chartered surveyors who are members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) can specialise in right-to-light cases, working with both sides where a development or extension may potentially infringe on a property’s natural light.
When you’re buying a home, it’s crucial to check out if any planning permission has been granted for developments close by that could affect the property you’re interested in. A surveyor examining a property for a RICS Level 3 Survey can also assess potential breaches of right to light.
At Surveyor Local, we only work with RICS surveyors. Talk to our team now about the survey that best suits your situation. Reports can be turned around quickly when required. Call now on 0800 022 4428 or get a no-obligation quote online.