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  • Rights of Light
Rights of Light, 3rd Edition Rights of Light, 3rd Edition


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Rights of Light

The Modern Law


Essential reading for all property and planning lawyers, surveyors and property developers

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Rights of light are a distinctive and complex branch of the law of easements. When advising on property developments it is essential that practitioners have a clear grasp of the legal principles and their practical application.

Written by a team of specialist barristers and surveyors, this established work, which has been extensively cited in the courts, provides targeted coverage of rights of light, combining an explanation of the legal framework with practical commentary on procedure and remedies together with contributions from a surveyor on measuring and valuing loss of light.

This new edition has been extensively rewritten and expanded to reflect changes in practice and procedure, including:

  • Completely rewritten and expanded chapters on remedies
  • New and extensive guidance on evidence and procedure in dealing with disputes in the civil courts
  • New guidance on practice and procedure in the Upper Tribunal and the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)
  • Additional sections ‘Easements distinguished from other rights’ and ‘Unlawful, or illegal enjoyment of light’
  • Extended treatment of section 237 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 dealing with compulsory purchase and its effect on rights of light
  • Impact of Perpetuities and Accumulations Act 2009 specifically in relation to deeds
  • Deals with all recent case-law including London Tara Hotel Ltd. v Kensington Close Hotel Ltd (CA 2011) (acquisition of rights of light), Dwyer v City of Westminster (CA 2014) (abandonment), Coventry v Lawrence (UKSC 2014) (discretion to grant injunctions), and Lawrence v Fen Tigers Ltd (UKSC 2014) (remedies).

Rights of Light: The Modern Law is essential reading for property and planning lawyers, surveyors and property developers.

  • The Property Law Context
  • Rights of Light Defined and Contrasted
  • Extent of Rights of Light
  • Buildings and Structures Capable of Enjoying Rights of Light
  • Acquisition of Rights of Light I – By Acts of the Parties
  • Acquisition of Rights of Light II – By Prescription
  • Acquisition of Rights of Light III – Prevention of Acquisition
  • Extinguishment of Rights of Light
  • Deeds Regulating Rights of Light
  • Proceedings for Infringement of Rights of Light – Proceedings in Court, Appeals from Court Decisions and Cases in the Property Chamber
  • Remedies for Infringements of Rights of Light – Injunctions
  • Remedies for Infringements of Rights of Light – Declarations
  • Remedies for Infringements of Rights of Light – Damages and Abatement
  • Measurement and Valuation of Light
  • Rights of Light and Planning Law
  • Conveyancing Issues which Affect Rights of Light
  • Human Rights
  • The High Hedges Legislation
  • Insuring Rights of Light
  • Proposals for Reform
  • Appendices
"A very worthwhile book"
New Law Journal
Since the second edition of this book appeared in 2007, the law relating to rights of light has certainly not stood still. The period since then has been dominated by three significant developments.

Firstly, the courts have become increasingly ready to grant injunctions, including mandatory orders requiring demolition of completed buildings, to protect rights of light, even if the victim has taken no action to seek interim relief prior to completion of the works. The apogee of this approach is HKRUK II (CHC) Ltd v Heaney, decided in 2010.

This in turn sent shock waves through the development industry, and in part was responsible for the second significant event, heightened activity by the Law Commission with respect to easements in general and rights of light in particular. The general effort of the Law Commission is contained in its report Lawcom 327 Making Land Work: Easements, Covenants and Profits à Prendre, which was produced in April 2011. With specific reference to rights of light, the Commission launched a project on rights of light reform, initiated by a consultation paper which appeared in February 2013. This presaged quite far reaching changes to the law, certainly by comparison with the views in Lawcom 327 which had only recently preceded it, including four measures in particular: first, it was proposed that prescriptive rights of light would be abolished; secondly, prospectively, measures to restrict the grant of injunctions by establishing a system requiring developers to give notice to those affected by prospective loss of light from the development, and requiring those affected to take action within a limited period or lose their right to seek an injunction were to be adopted; thirdly, there was to be a new statutory definition of the criteria for granting injunctions; and, finally, it was proposed to confer on the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal powers to vary or abrogate rights to light in certain situations.

These proposals in turn were overtaken by the third major event, the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v Fen Tigers Ltd, of February 2014. Whatever this decision means, given the dissonance between the members of the court and the deficiencies in some of the reasoning, it seems clear that the previous law on the
grant of injunctions to remedy nuisances has been relaxed substantially. The Law Commission published its Report and draft Bill on 4 December 2014 (Law Com No 356) (having taken Lawrence v Fen Tigers Ltd into account) and Chapter 20 sets out the proposed reforms and it comments on what is not proposed. Until these proposals are the subject of legislation in force Lawrence v Fen Tigers Ltd remains the ‘last word’ on the subject of remedies, at least for the present. To what extent that decision mitigates the risk to developers is not yet established.

When we wrote the preface to the first edition, we set out our objective as to give a full account of the modern law relating to rights of light. This we believe we succeeded in doing. We also expressed our belief that the time was right for a book dedicated solely to rights of light. This has been borne out by events. The law relating to rights of light remains as always challenging and difficult, but of great practical importance to many development projects.

In this third edition we have taken account of these and other developments and where necessary re-written substantially the text, in particular those sections dealing with remedies.

The law is stated as at 8 December 2014.

Stephen Bickford-Smith,
Andrew Francis,
Tom Weekes,

December 2014
I am pleased to be invited to write a foreword to this new work on rights of light. It promises to become the standard practitioners’ handbook on this important subject. As the authors point out in their preface, it is a subject which can have a profound impact on the development potential of land. They point to the fact that there may be no physical evidence of the existence of such rights other than the presence of windows in buildings which receive light over other land. Rights to light may be acquired by 20 years’ user without any requirement of registration, and qualify as ‘overriding interests’. Such considerations make it of the first importance that lawyers advising their clients on potential developments should be fully aware of the principles involved.

This book offers a comprehensive treatment of the subject. It covers the definition and extent of rights to light, their acquisition, their extinguishment, and their regulation by deed. There is also an extensive treatment of litigation relating to rights of light, brought fully up to date to take into account the Woolf reforms. The section on the measurement and valuation of light contains a clear exposition of the difficult technical issues. I particularly welcome the practical approach to explaining the interaction of rights to light with planning law. Finally, the conveyancing issues arising in relation to rights to light are fully examined.

In its Seventh Programme, approved in 1999, the Law Commission announced a new project for the examination of easements and analogous rights, with a view to their reform and rationalisation. This will be a major undertaking, and it is unlikely that it will yield legislative change for some years. In the meantime, the practitioner could have no better guide than this book. It will also provide a valuable starting point for our own work on this aspect of the law of easements. I strongly commend it to the legal world.

The Law Commission
21 January 2000
Plus specialist contributors:

 Andrew Cartmell
Director, Point 2 Surveyors
Richard Clarke
BCL (Oxon), LLB (Soton), Barrister, Landmark Chambers

Mark Davies

Associate Director of UK Underwriting, Steward Title Limited
Alistair Mills
BCL (Oxon), MA (Cantab), Barrister, Landmark Chambers

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