Permitted development rights (PDR): rights to light and party wall injunction risks remain


A new set of permitted development rights have been announced to help address the UK housing shortage. They will come into force in August 2020 and allow for certain residential buildings to be extended upwards by 7 metres without the need for planning permission, so long as the overall building height is no greater than 30 metres.

The Government hopes this measure will unlock the potential of eligible buildings. However, critics suggest that substandard habitable spaces could be created without the proper oversight from planners.

Either way, developers should be aware that the new permissions don’t reduce other risks to potential works.

Daylight, sunlight and overshadowing assessments still important

Although planning permission is not required, the local planning authority will still need to be satisfied with the quality of the new development. This will include requests for daylight, sunlight and overshadowing assessments to be provided. They will help demonstrate that new habitable spaces will be adequately lit and the additional massing will not adversely impact the neighbouring residential properties.

In addition, the new development rights will not override legal constraints associated with a development. Neighbourly constraints such as Rights of Light and Party Wall issues will still need to be mitigated.

Why are rights to light separate to permitted development rights?

Regardless of the new permitted development rights, neighbours could still invoke their right to light and seek an injunction to stop a development.

Rights to light relate to a certain level of light over land belonging to another. The most common way to obtain these rights is by enjoying a given level of light on your land, uninterrupted, for a period of at least 20 years.

So, when developing a building where the neighbouring properties are more than 20 years old, there is every chance the neighbours have acquired a right to light.

It’s important to consider the legal constraints and associated mitigation measures which could result from this, early in the development process.

Party Wall rights present another neighbourly challenge

Permitted Development rights don’t allow for building owners to avoid the responsibilities placed on them under the Party Wall Etc Act 1996. Neither does it provide for automatic rights of access to land which belongs to an adjoining owner, to undertake those works. 

The obligations of developers and building owners mean that despite Permitted Development, works could be notifiable under the Party Wall Act. Therefore, building owners may need to serve party wall notices to adjoining owners and agree awards before such works could start.

TFT’s specialist advisers are here to help developers, building owners and neighbours navigate their planning and construction works.

Contact Richard Nosworthy, our head of neighbourly matters, to support you with your next project.