No light at the end of the tunnel

A decision in September 2010 caused great concern for developers who either ignored or were unable to resolve rights of light issues before beginning a development.

The case involved a commercial building in Leeds which was bought by a developer with the benefit of planning permission for the addition of two extra floors. The developer was aware that the development might interfere with the light available to an adjoining owner. Negotiations were entered into but no settlement was reached. The developer pressed ahead and completed the works in July 2009.

The developer tried to conclude any issues by applying for a ruling that the adjoining owner would be entitled to monetary compensation only for the interference but were shocked when the court instead awarded an injunction requiring demolition of the extra floors. In previous decisions relating to commercial buildings the Court has awarded damages in lieu of injunctions.

The decision was due to be appealed in the Court of Appeal but was settled prior to the appeal date meaning that the precedent set by the 2010 case remains.

This news will be most unwelcome to developers who are now faced with increased uncertainty and a possible escalation in their costs. It is even more important for rights of light issues to be dealt with effectively before starting on building works. It should not be assumed that payment of money will be sufficient or that the Courts will order damages in lieu of an injunction.

This article first appeared in Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service, and has been reproduced with their permission. For more information about Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com.