Friday 6 June 2003 1.07pm
I am no lawyer, but I believe there are no rights in english law to a view. This was confirmed fairly recently (1997) by the House of Lords in passing ... as part of a case about the impact on television reception caused by the construction of Canary Wharf.
Hunter and Others v. Canary Wharf Ltd.
From Lord Lloyd of Berwick's judgement
"The house-owner who has a fine view of the South Downs may find that his neighbour has built so as to obscure his view. But there is no redress, unless, perchance, the neighbour's land was subject to a restrictive covenant in the house-owner's favour. It would be a good example of what in law is called "damnum absque injuria": a loss which the house-owner has undoubtedly suffered, but which gives rise to no infringement of his legal rights. In the absence of a restrictive covenant, there is no legal right to a view. The analogy between a building which interferes with a view and a building which interferes with television reception seems to me, as it did to the Court of Appeal, to be very close.
If one asks the more fundamental question as to why there should be no legal remedy in either case, one is taken back to the observation of Lord Hardwicke L.C. in Attorney-General v. Doughty (1752) 2 Ves. Sen. 453:
"I know no general rule of common law, which warrants that, or says, that building so as to stop another's prospect is a nuisance. Was that the case, there could be no great towns; and I must grant injunctions to all the new buildings in this town . . ."
In Dalton v. Angus (1881) 6 App.Cas. 740 at 824, Lord Blackburn put it fairly and squarely on grounds of policy:
"I think this decision, that a right of prospect is not acquired by prescription, shows that, whilst on the Balance
of convenience and inconvenience, it was held expedient that the right to light, which could only impose a burthen upon land very near the house, should be protected when it had been long enjoyed, on the same ground it was held expedient that the right of prospect, which would impose a burthen on a very large and indefinite area, should not be allowed to be created, except by actual agreement."
There can be rights of light, but generally the courts will take their judgement of what is reasonable in modern times from planning standards, and most planning decisions work on the basis of whether daylighting is consistent with the standards set by the Building Research Institute.
Despite Southwark's best efforts to agree with the residents that the loss of light would be substantial, developers usually win on appeal if they can prove that the affected neighbours will still get light levels to the BRI minima - check what was in the planning appeal reports.
Edited/updated to cut back the length of the legal quote and reinstate missing final paras that quote had pasted over.
Post edited (06 Jun 03 20:05)