Basement Development Falls Foul of 'Right to Daylight'

In densely populated urban areas, the right to daylight and not to feel overshadowed by new development is of ever increasing importance. The High Court made that point as it scotched plans for a subterranean building project in Central London.

A company that managed a group of mansion blocks wished to install a one-storey basement extension, comprising an estate office, meeting rooms and a gym for residents’ use. The roof of the building was to be planted with semi-mature trees and its retaining wall would be no higher than an existing wall.

Objections were received from the long leaseholders of a flat on the lower ground floor of one of the blocks on the basis that the new wall would be just 0.8 metres from their bay windows. They argued that the wall would reduce the amount of natural light reaching the flat and would increase the sense of enclosure within it. Planning permission was, however, granted by a local authority planning officer, to whom the decision had been delegated.

In overturning the consent, the Court found that the reasons given by the officer were inadequate and that there was no indication that the leaseholders’ amenity objections had been considered on their merits. No proper weight had been given to a local development plan policy that discouraged developments that would lead to unacceptable overshadowing or loss of natural light.