If neighbouring buildings have acquired, or are about to acquire, rights to light, developers must consider carefully both when and how to deal with the potential impact of rights of light claims on their proposed scheme and to formulate a clear strategy at an early stage.
In practice such a strategy is likely to include seeking to prevent any neighbouring properties which have not yet accrued rights of light from doing so by service of a ‘light obstruction notice’ and seeking to negotiate formal releases from those enjoying existing rights. In addition early consideration should be given to obtaining a bespoke insurance policy to help mitigate the potential commercial risks. However it should be understood that developers cannot insist that those with rights release them and therefore sensitive and sometimes protracted commercial negotiations are often required to try to achieve releases and substantial premiums may need to be paid.
As a last resort, in the case of substantial development schemes with significant public benefit, it may be possible to request the local planning authority to exercise their statutory power under section 203 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to override third party rights, including rights to light, subject to limited compensation. However such powers are rarely used, require a transfer of ownership to the local planning authority, and are only considered after negotiations with the relevant parties have failed.