It was recently reported that the proposed development of a skyscraper at 22 Bishopsgate in the City of London might have to be abandoned due to issues relating to rights of light. The delays involved and costs of dealing with neighbouring third party rights are putting the development at risk. Consequently, the developers, Lipton Rogers, are considering using some little known powers.
Neighbours with rights to light in favour of windows in their properties can throw spanners in these multi-million pound works. These dominant owners can seek to maintain that the building of the office block will substantially interfere with their rights of light. Then they indicate to the developer that they will seek an injunction blocking the development to protect their right of light unless they receive a satisfactory sum in compensation for waiving their rights. The developer has to deal with each neighbour individually and this can lead to delays and spiralling legal costs and damages payments. The developers at 22 Bishopsgate have to deal with 90 such neighbours. Often the building work cannot start as the funder wants all these issues resolved before financing the building works.
Faced with this situation, developers are increasingly seeking to rely on the provisions of section 237 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Section 237 enables adverse property rights to be overridden. Under section 237, works carried out on land, which has been acquired or appropriated by a local authority for planning purposes, are authorised if they are done by the local authority or its successors in title. This means that the works can be carried out without any threat of an injunction being obtained to stop the development. The injured party is just entitled to compensation.
Developers, in this situation, approach the local authority and see if the local authority will agree to buy the freehold of the building site and then lease the land back to the developers. This will amount to an appropriation for planning purposes and invoke the section 237 powers preventing the neighbours from injuncting the works. This deprives the neighbours of their main leverage over the development.
We at, Benchmark Solicitors LLP, are experts in rights of light disputes. We can act for dominant owners seeking to prevent developments where their right to light will be interfered with or those content to waive their rights of light in return for sufficient compensation. With over 400 buildings with more than 20 storeys in the pipeline for London, this issue is likely to become more and more prevalent.
If this issue affects you, please call Ross Paterson at Benchmark Solicitors LLP on 0203 405 4541.