Our resident expert in property renovation, Amy Shields, was recently accepted into a group discussing ‘rights for light’ which struck a chord of interest with me.
Based on the Ancient Lights law, which as the name suggests is rather old, the ‘right to light’ is a form of easement in English Law allowing a property owner the right to maintain a certain level of illumination in their property.
The Prescription Act 1832 states, that a right to light may be acquired by anyone who has had uninterrupted natural daylight through their property windows for 20 years or more. The property owner is entitled to forbid any construction that would compromise the level of illumination in their property.
Once the right to light is granted, the owner is entitled to “sufficient light according to the ordinary notions of mankind” – suffice to say this is a description that is the subject of much debate among surveying professionals today!
Specialist insurers are able to offer a right to light indemnity policy for property developers in case a development threatens to block or partially block the light.
A famous victim of the Rights to Light law is BBC Broadcasting House in London. The design was questioned by locals and as a result the now iconic building became an oddly asymmetrical sloping construction which allowed light to pass through to the residential areas the initial design would have blocked.