Daylight & Sunlight Matters for Neighbours to Developments

The amount of natural light your home gets was probably a deciding factor when you bought it. We can imagine you’ve spent many an afternoon basking in the sunshine in your rear/side room, a little slice of heaven. It would be pretty upsetting if that was taken away from you.

It can be a concern when you find out your neighbours wish to build an extension close to your home. You may go from looking at your garden and basking in the sunlight to looking at a brick wall with a loss of daylight and sunlight. You may be concerned that your home will be cast into shadow or that the loss of light will affect the value of your home. We understand the complexity of each situation completely and work with you to try and put your mind at ease. The most important thing in these situations is to know your rights.

Whilst your neighbours will have their reasons for extending their home, you want to ensure your home is protected against adverse impacts and the loss of such daylight and sunlight.

Know Your Rights as a neighbour to a development

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

Even in the absence of such a specific local policy, the National Planning Policy stipulates that amenity should be considered.

If your local council’s policies are not clear on daylight and sunlight issues, failure to assess can still potentially enable you to challenge a planning decision.

There is a nationally recognised publication used by design practitioners, planning consultants and Local Authority Planning Departments used to assess good Daylight and Sunlight design. “Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight – A Guide to Good Practice, 2nd Edition” by Paul Littlefair, also known as BRE 209, is referred to by many when consulting on daylight and sunlight issues and the individuals right to light. Whilst it’s not a mandatory document, it has the respect of many.

Planning permission can be refused if your neighbour’s extension is deemed to cause an adverse impact on your home. They may also be asked to amend their design to remove any harmful effect on your property.

There are specific ‘rules of thumb’ that would be an indicator of risk if your neighbours’ proposal fails. 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) of the proposed development’s impact on 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 report to accompany your objection(s), we can help you.

Rights To Light can be a complicated topic to get your head around. At Smith Marston, we can advise you on every outcome. Whether you’re a homeowner or deal with larger-scale residential or commercial properties, we have the experience and skills to protect your property.

Initial Assessments

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning permission and right to light. We start with a telephone consultation to assess your individual case.

If the development is still in the planning process we will let you know if you have valid grounds to challenge it. If the development already has planning permission, there is still the possibility of reducing its size or receiving compensation if your property has a legal right of light. Right to light is obtained by enjoying the light uninterrupted and without permission for 20 years. An ‘adequate’ amount of light is the equivalent of the amount of light one foot away from a candle. If the amount of ‘adequate’ light in the room is reduced below 50-55% of the area because of the development, then the loss of light is considered actionable in court.

How Can We Help

If we determine that you have a valid case, we can represent you. We understand the importance of neighbourly relations and strive to maintain these throughout. We will work with you on how to approach your neighbours to remain amicable.

We will write to the Local Authority on your behalf if the matter is still at planning consideration stage. We can also try to use your right to light to reduce the size of the development. In some cases, this can prevent the development altogether. We can also advise on the compensation you may receive should you surrender your right to light completely.

Expert Witness Evidence

Typically it is the responsibility of those planning to undertake the work to produce a set of rights of light and planning calculations. In situations where this doesn’t happen, or their accuracy is questioned, we are able to undertake checks on your behalf.

We work in accordance with BRE 209 when conducting our planning tests and will check the accuracy and interpretation of the numerical data provided if they provided their own report.

Going to court can be an expensive outcome for both parties and therefore should be a last resort. However, should it occur, we can help provide you with all the necessary information and evidence for submission to the court.

Planning an Objection?

Whilst we can calculate Daylight and Sunlight losses to your property that a neighbour’s development may cause, we are not Planning Consultants. Therefore, our focus can only concentrate on the aspects relating to Daylight and Sunlight. This is only one consideration of often many policy considerations. You may wish to consider objecting fully and as thoroughly as you can. We recommend you seek advice from other professionals on whether you may have reasonable grounds for objecting to a planning application.

Should you need such advice, Help Me Object are a company that can offer bespoke advice to help prepare a Planning Objection. They can provide letter templates should you wish to compose an object yourself. They have already had good results for a number of our clients. Contact them on the earlier link, and see how they can help you too.

Contact us for a FREE Quotation

    Frequently Asked Questions

    When Local Authorities assess planning applications, they are only concerned with the impact 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 the Planning Application stage.

    As a neighbour, you have no right to appeal against a Planning Permission that has gained approval. You can challenge the decision within six weeks by pursuing Judicial Review, but this can only be followed if you have a strong case and demonstrate that the Council has, for example, not abided by its planning policies. This course of action is the equivalent of bringing legal action against the Local Authority. It 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 lose a lot of light 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. There are ‘rules of thumb’ tests for deciding when a developer should carry out a Daylight and Sunlight assessment. 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 determine a planning application based upon compliance with their planning policies. Therefore, your concern regarding the impact upon your right to light in your objection will not be considered. It does, however,  illustrate your problems to your neighbour, who will become aware of your situation.

    If matters progress to a legal right to light dispute, having raised this point early in the application process will not harm. It means a paper trail will be left demonstrating your opposition to the development and how important you feel your right to light is. However, we recommend you write to your neighbour directly, outside of the planning process to make them aware of your right to light concerns.

    This scenario is one we come across regularly. Some measures can be used to consider the impact of such extensions. The ‘rule of thumb’ test for extensions perpendicular to the rear wall is the ’45-degree’ test. This is a two-part test and can be read more in our e-brochure. However, with a single-storey extension like you describe, 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 excellent access to daylight over your garden. In such circumstances, the impact of your neighbour’s single-storey extension is unlikely to cause a significant effect. If two-storey, things could be different, especially regarding sunlight, depending upon the orientation of your house and dining room window.

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    “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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