Daylight & Sunlight Matters for Neighbours to Developments

You bought your home because of its lovely, light, airy room.  You love spending time in your rear/side study, or your dining room, sitting at your table, reading a book or a newspaper, enjoying the nice light conditions that attracted you to the house in the first place.  And now all that is in jeopardy.

Your neighbours wish to build an extension close to your nice, light filled rooms. You’ll be looking out at a brick wall, and you’ll lose both daylight and sunlight. You fear you garden will be cast into shadow. You worry the loss of light will affect the value of your home. We understand.

Whist your neighbours will have their own reasons for wishing to extend their home, you clearly would like to ensure your home is protected against adverse impact and the loss of such daylight and sunlight.

Many Local Authorities have policies that seek to ensure access to daylight and sunlight to neighbouring habitable room windows, and, sunlight to a neighbours’ principal garden is not adversely affected by a development.

Even in the absence of such a specific local policy, National Planning Policy stipules that amenity should be considered, and thus, where your Local Council’s policies are not clear on the issues of Daylight and Sunlight, failure to assess can still enable you to potentially challenge a planning decision if proper consideration has not been given.

The most widely recognised and used document for assessing good Daylight and Sunlight design, is “Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight – A Guide to Good Practice, 2nd Edition” by Paul Littlefair. This is a nationally recognised publication, and whilst not mandatory, it has been adopted by many design practitioners, planning consultants and Local Authority Planning Departments throughout the UK.

As a result of this, if your neighbours proposed extension (or new build property) does not meet the tests with this Guide (formally known and still widely referred to as BRE 209), and thus causes adverse impact to your home, planning permission can be refused, or, you your neighbour may be asked to adapt their design to eradicate the harmful impact upon your property.

There are certain ‘rules of thumb’ that, if your neighbours’ proposal fail, would be an indicator of risk, and in such circumstances, the Local Authority Planning Department should ask your neighbour (the Applicant) to submit a Daylight and Sunlight Assessment to accompany their planning application.

This document should inform the Planning Officer(s) as to the impact the proposed development will have upon your property.

Some neighbours do not feel comfortable with the idea of the Planning Officers relying upon a report prepared by a consultant instructed (and paid for) by the neighbour.

If you would prefer to commission your own report to accompany your objection(s), we can help you albeit in this situation clearly you would have to incur costs, as opposed to when a developer is the instructing party.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    When Local Authorities assess planning applications, they are only concerned with the impact that an applicant’s proposals will have upon the amenity to ‘habitable’ rooms in your home. So, whilst you may lose daylight and sunlight to your hall/landing/bathroom, these are classed as ‘non-habitable’ areas and as such the impact upon these areas will not be considered at a Planning Application. Often small kitchens (usually less than 13 sq. m and not large enough to accommodate for example, a dining table) are also classed as ‘non-habitable’ and also will not be considered.

    No, as a neighbour you have no right to appeal against a Planning Permission that has gained approval. You can challenge the decision within 6 weeks by pursuing Judicial Review, but, this can only be pursued if you have a strong case and can demonstrate that the Council have for example, not abided by its own planning policies. This course of action is the equivalent of bringing a legal action against the Local Authority, and so is not something to be taken lightly as the costs in pursuing this option could be huge, and, if the decision were to go against you, you could be liable for the Council’s costs.

    You may find that you do lose a lot of daylight and/or sunlight from your side window, however, if your room remains adequately lit from another source, in your case, your rear dining room window, you may find that overall, your room may remain well lit. Daylight and Sunlight Assessments can determine if this will be the case and will consider all sources of natural light into your room. There are ‘rules of thumb’ test for determining when a Daylight and Sunlight assessment should be carried out by a developer. Find out more in our e-brochure here.

    Unfortunately, this is correct. The Local Authority Planning department is not obliged or able to assess legal easements (a right to light is an easement); they must assess a planning application based upon compliance with their planning policies. Your inclusion of your concern regarding impact upon your right to light in your objection will therefore not be considered, however, it does illustrate your concerns to your neighbour, who will become aware of your concern. If matters do progress to a legal right to light dispute, having raised this point early in the application process will do no harm, and will leave a paper trial demonstrating your opposition to the development, and how important you feel about your right to light. However you should also write to your neighbour directly, outside of the planning process, to also make them aware of your right to light concerns.

    This is a very typical scenario that you describe. There are measures that can be used to consider the impact of such extensions. The ‘rule of thumb’ test for extensions perpendicular to the rear wall of a property is the ’45-degree’ test. This is a two-part test and can be read about more in our e-brochure. However, with a single storey extension like you describe (off to the side of your dining room window), whilst you will have some daylight blocked when you look in that direction, you most probably will find that when you look straight out of your rear window, you have very good access to daylight over your garden. In such circumstances, the impact of your neighbour’s single storey extension is unlikely to cause significant impact. If two-storey, things could be different, especially with regards sunlight, depending upon the orientation of your house and dining room window.

    “Adrian was instructed to review the Daylight / Sunlight reports submitted as part of the application and subsequently to support the objections being made as to the impact of the proposed development. His expertise and analysis identified deficiencies within the Daylight / Sunlight reports specifically and within the scheme generally. Very helpfully Adrian brought an evidentially based dimension to the objections being made over and above planning judgements. After a series of objections over a lengthy application period the application was withdrawn and the developer ceased their interest in the site much to our client’s delight.”

    Andrew Moss, Associate (Chartered Town Planner) , Ward Hadaway
    “We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your team for such an efficient proactive survey, and invaluable advice. We are delighted our neighbours have started to remove their first-floor extension, work is almost complete. Hopefully going forward, we will not need such a service but if we did would not hesitate in using your company again and would certainly recommend you to all. Thanks again.”
    “We remain very grateful to you for your professional advice but also would like to thank you and your colleague for your many kindnesses and patience when clarifying technical and legal issues. We greatly appreciate your help and support, without which we doubt that we would have persisted this far.”

    Technical Information on Daylight & Sunlight

    A neighbour to a proposed development may have grounds to object within the planning process based upon loss of daylight and sunlight.

    In such circumstances, a neighbour wishing to object to a proposed development may wish to add some weight to this objection by arranging for a formal assessment to demonstrate whether the scheme would fail the tests described within the BRE document. Although there may be overriding factors which would still lead a Council’s planning department to grant planning permission despite the failure of the scheme in respect of the BRE guidance tests, this is a serious ‘material consideration’ matter which could give grounds for refusal of an application for planning permission.

    More Details

    This considers only the hours of sunlight a window will receive over a 12 month period. Because the test relates only to sunlight, only windows facing within 90 degrees of due south are considered under the methodology contained with the BRE document Site Layout Planning for Daylight & Sunlight.

    The guidance is that main windows should receive at least 25% of the ‘total probable sunlight hours’ for a 12 month period. This should include 5% of the total probable sunlight hours over the winter months between 21 September and 21 March.

    As for the Legal Right to Light, this takes no account of direct sunlight and assesses only the amount of diffuse light within a room related to an affected window.

    The principal method of assessing this is a measure of the amount of sky visible from the window of an affected room. This assessment component is called the Vertical Sky Component (VSC). For a window of a room to be adversely affected under the BRE guidance, the window must have a view of less than 27% of the ‘dome of the sky’ (a VSC of less than 27%) and the VSC must be less than 0.8 times its previous value.

    A further more detailed assessment is called the Average Daylight Factor. This is a measure of the actual likely natural diffuse daylight in a room taking account of various matters influencing this such as the reflectivity of surfaces and the glazing in the window. The no sky-line is a measure of those parts of the room which have no view at all of the sky at all.
    The BRE guidance suggests that consideration of sunlight to external areas should normally include:

    • Gardens, usually the main back garden of a house, and allotments;
    • Parks and playing fields;
    • Children’s playgrounds;
    • Outdoor swimming pools and paddling pools;
    • Sitting-out areas, such as those between non-domestic buildings and in public spaces;
    • Focal points for views, such as a group of monuments or fountains.

    The BRE guide recommends that at least half of the garden/amenity area should receive at least two hours of direct sunlight on 21 March.

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