The blocking of ancient light

… more modern tale. A mate had an issue with Ancient Lights and this is the tale.

His neighbour began to have an extension built which would block the view and a certain amount of light. It began with a letter by him to a firm who specialize in such things.

The reply:

Thank you for your enquiry.

I will be happy to assist you evaluate the loss of light to your property as a result of the proposed development.

In the first instance it would be useful to view the plans in relation to your property. If you could forward me a copy of the plans I will be happy to revert back to you with my initial opinion and details of our services.

As a guide, our Case Appraisal assessment is £995 and includes a site visit, assessment, written report and a letter of objection to the developer asserting your legal rights of light should our appraisal conclude that any breaches or an injury is likely to occur.

I understand that the proposed development comes under Permitted Development and therefore we are unable to raise an objection to the planning department in respect of loss of daylight and sunlight.

Therefore, the BRE 25 and 45 degree tests are not relevant in this instance. However, permitted development rights do not override any legal rights of light your property may enjoy.

Please do let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing back from you shortly.

He then sent the details and received this reply:

Thank you for your email and photos.

I can understand your concerns however, as the proposed extension is at an oblique angle to the left of your rear windows, it is unlikely a right of light injury will occur. This is because, in essence, the light remaining from a position directly in front of your rear windows could compensate for majority of the loss as a result of the proposal.

However, I have not undertaken any evaluation of the issue or know your internal room sizes. If you wish we could undertake a case appraisal of the issue. Our fee for this starts from £995 and includes a site visit, assessment, report and letter to your neighbour if we conclude an injury is likely to occur. I will be happy to prepare you a quote if this is something you would like to consider.

I hope this is helpful. Please do let me know if you have any questions.

Our intrepid correspondent then went to government about it and received these:

Letter from the Minister:


End of the Minister’s letter:


Bit of a putdown.

Fact sheet about development

I have that factsheet here but it’s 1Mb and as my pic limit is 50kb, I can’t run it. However, it is accessible at the end of that link. And here is another:

Your home and planning permission

Again, I have that document here but you can access it via that link.

My mate takes up the story:

The essence of this is that a) as Permitted Development applies, the earlier tests don’t apply.

They were straight forward, and consisted of projecting an angled line out from the window and seeing if the proposed development obstructed any view of the sky along the line.

The new tests are more involved and (surprise, surprise) mean using a computer programme and various measurements to determine how much “loss of light” will occur.

Immediately the previous ‘do not override any legal rights of light your property may enjoy’ has been downgraded – now it’s a case of you will lose some light, just a question of how much…

And, of course, having to stump up a grand for an “expert” to come and look is a killer for many people, particularly as they have already suggested my circumstances are borderline.

I could take the risk, and still not get anywhere – even if they did find in my favour I then have to get involved in legal shenanigans to try and stop the development (difficult if it’s already under way or completed). The best one might hope for is monetary compensation, but that is going to permanently sour relations with next door.

So, as I see it, the claim: ‘permitted development rights do not override any legal rights of light your property may enjoy’ is pushing it somewhat.

From previous comments elsewhere it’s a civil matter, rather than a planning aspect, and the onus is on the aggrieved party to try and get a result.

There is a further scheme (until May 2019) allowing larger extensions under PD – here the developer has to notify the planning authority and adjacent properties, and the development might not be allowed, but smaller sizes are automatically deemed to have been granted permission, subject to meeting the rules.

The before and after photos


Apparently they could even have made it 2 foot higher without any issue.

Two separate friends of mine had boundary disputes about a year ago and the pattern of discouragement over the complaint went on in a similar way. There’s a lack of any comeback with matters like this, except at high personal cost.

2 comments for “The blocking of ancient light

  1. Lord T
    December 6, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Yet these issues are often quoted as a reason for government involvement in private property. To stop you getting screwed.

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