Loss of Natural Light Prevents Development Going Ahead

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Natural light is an essential feature of any desirable home and is a vital factor in many planning decisions. The High Court made that point in quashing planning permission granted for development of a large urban site following objections from nearby residents that the project would block sunlight from their properties.

The existing commercial building on the 98-metre-long site was empty except for an adult learning centre on the ground floor. In those circumstances, the local authority, which owned the site, granted itself planning consent for two new buildings on the site that would provide a number of shop units and 62 new flats above. On behalf of residents of a nearby terrace of Victorian houses, set within a conservation area, an objector had argued that the development would seriously affect the penetration of sunlight into their homes.

In upholding the objector’s judicial review challenge to the permission, the Court found that the council had received materially misleading advice from one of its planning officers. Members of the planning committee had been mistakenly led to believe that all habitable rooms in the terrace would remain well lit and that there would be no material deterioration in their sunlight.

The committee was not told that there were 15 rooms in 11 properties that would suffer a significant adverse effect in terms of natural light penetration. Although the committee might have reached the same conclusion had it received accurate advice, it also might not. The misleading nature of the officer’s report was material to the decision in hand and the planning permission was quashed.

R on the Application of Rainbird v The Council of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Rex Cowell