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 were taken away from you.

Are you concerned about your Neighbours’ Development?

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 reasons for extending their home, you want to protect your home against adverse impacts and the loss of 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 a development does not adversely affect sunlight in a neighbour’s principal garden.

Even without such a specific local policy, the National Planning Policy stipulates that amenities 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.

When can Planning Permission be Denied?

Planning permission can be refused if your neighbour’s extension is deemed to impact your home negatively. 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 indicate 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. Whether you’re a homeowner or deal with larger-scale residential or commercial properties, we have the experience and skills to protect your property.

Contact us for a FREE Quotation

If you have any drawings or photos please email them to [email protected]

The BRE Guide Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight

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, 3rd Edition” by Paul Littlefair, also known as BR209 or, 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.

Loss of Light Planning

Loss of light planning refers to the process of evaluating and managing the potential reduction of natural light caused by new developments. Considering the impact of proposed buildings or structures on neighbouring properties and public spaces is essential. Planning regulations and guidelines are in place to address this concern and ensure that existing daylight levels are not unreasonably compromised. Loss of light assessments assess the potential consequences on sunlight availability and aim to strike a balance between new developments and the need to maintain access to natural light. By engaging in thorough loss of light planning, developers can design projects that minimise any negative impacts and contribute to a well-lit and sustainable built environment.

Overshadowing Planning

Overshadowing occurs when new developments block sunlight from reaching nearby buildings or outdoor spaces. Planning rules have been established to regulate this issue and prevent the loss of daylight. By booking an assessment, you can evaluate the potential impact of overshadowing on existing properties and public areas. A daylight and sunlight assessment will help identify any concerns and objections related to overshadowing during the planning process. By addressing these issues proactively, you can ensure that your development project maximises natural light and minimises any negative effects on surrounding areas.

Initial Assessments for Neighbour Concerns

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, it is still possible to reduce its size or receive 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.

Overshadowing Planning Rules

By understanding and adhering to overshadowing rules, developers can create designs that maintain a harmonious balance between new and existing structures, preserving access to natural light for everyone involved. It’s important to consult with a daylight and sunlight assessor who is well-versed in these planning rules to ensure compliance and minimise potential objections during the planning process.

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 approaching your neighbours to remain amicable.

We will write to the Local Authority on your behalf if the matter is still at the 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.

  • Right to Light assessment 
  • Smooth neighbour relations 
  • Write to the local authority 
  • Advise on compensation 
  • Offer expert advice and guidance

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 is 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.

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.

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. 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.