Solicitor urges landowner diligence towards property developments

Wake Smith Solicitors 22 May 2017

A Wake Smith Solicitors' property lawyer is urging landowners to check that new property developments close to their own premises are not infringing their rights.

Neil Salter, director and head of commercial property at Wake Smith has acted successfully with the firm’s litigation team for landowners to obtain compensation from developers for infringement of rights to light and unauthorised crane oversailing.

Neil Salter, said: “It is fantastic that we are seeing increasing levels of urban development in South Yorkshire but there are inevitably cases where a construction project may infringe on the rights of neighbouring property, which landowners need to be aware of. Most developers will be well aware of the potential infringements and as long as they are well advised, will be prepared for such claims.

“For example, if a builder is using a crane which passes over your property, then you as landowner can make it clear that this is not permitted, and in return for not seeking an injunction to prevent what is a trespass, you as landowner grant a licence in lieu of a fee from the developer/builder, this is an accepted practice but one that landowners are often unaware of.”

More significant perhaps is the question of rights to light, which is an easement in English Law, that gives a landowner the legal right to receive a reasonable amount of light through windows in buildings on his or her land.

Neil added: “Natural light is quite rightly viewed as an important factor and in many cases the owner of a building is entitled to prevent any nearby construction or other obstruction that would deprive the landowner of natural light. Broadly, it means that neighbours cannot build anything that would block the light, without permission.

“In instances where it becomes apparent that natural light will be compromised, it is possible to apply to court to seek to obtain an injunction in order to stop work that compromises the passage of natural light. Incidentally, the grant of planning permission to a developer does not provide a legal defence for a loss of light claim.

“Whether rights to light are infringed is a very technical matter and an opinion from a specialist rights to light surveyor is needed to back up a claim, or indeed to resist a claim.

“Because claims for compensation over rights to light can run into tens of thousands and sometimes more, they are of concern to a developer because such claims are very disruptive to a developer’s programme and therefore funding.

“Even crane oversailing can see substantial licence fees changing hands in return for consents obtained late in the programme.

“None of these issues ought to restrict or inhibit well planned developments, but where a landowner’s rights are not respected or adequately considered, the law is there to protect them from such breaches.”

For further information please contact Neil Salter at [email protected] or on 0114 224 2037

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