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The Role of a Right to Light Surveyor

Wednesday, November 04, 2015 - Sponsored by

Right of Light Consulting

The role of a right to light surveryor often includes...

1) Calculations & Reports

A right to light is the right to a certain amount of light and not to all of the light that was once enjoyed.  Surveyors use mathematical calculations to determine whether or not a development causes an infringement.  For speed and accuracy rights to light calculations are undertaken using specialist computer software.

Rights to light reports will typically cover the following areas:

• Calculations to confirm whether or not rights to light are injured

• Identification of injunction risks

• Compensation valuations where risks identified

• Advice on the appropriate strategy for dealing with rights of light risks

2) Maximum envelopes and design advice

In order to maximise a site’s development potential, Right to Light surveyors can create a maximum envelope. A maximum envelope shows the largest 3 dimensional volume that can be built without impacting rights to light. The maximum envelope can therefore be used by architects and developers when working on development designs.  However, it is often possible to go beyond the maximum envelope, providing an appropriate rights to light strategy is put in place.  This may include reaching agreements with affected neighbours or putting insurance in place to cover potential claims.

3) Compensation Agreements

Where it is impractical to design around a right to light, it may be necessary for the surveyor to facilitate a compensation agreement between the affected parties.  Once an agreement has been reached, this should be formalised with a deed.

4) Insurance

In some cases it may be necessary to take out an insurance policy to cover the risk of a compensation claim or injunction.  Insurance policies are available to protect developers from the risk of possible future claims resulting from infringements of rights to light. The Right to Light Surveyor is often required to provide a report to the insurance underwriters on the risk levels associated with the development.  Should a policy be implemented and a claim arises, the Right to Light Surveyor may be retained to assist with the handling of the claim.

Cases such as HKRUK II v Heaney (2010) have highlighted the legal system's increased willingness to award an injunction against the developer rather than simply awarding compensation to the injured parties. The costs of compensation/damages can be significant; sometimes being based on up to 30% or more of the developer's profit. The consequences of an injunction will in most cases be even more costly than a damages claim – particularly if it involves demolition of part of a completed building.

In order to allow a development to proceed, a developer can take out an insurance policy to protect themselves from a range of potential costs. The extent of cover will vary from insurer to insurer.

Typically, insurance will cover:

• Legal costs involved in addressing claims

• Compensation settlements

• Abortive design and construction costs

• Loss in land value in the event the developer's project is permanently halted or curtailed by the court.

5) BRE Daylight and Sunlight for Planning

When deciding over planning applications Local Authorities will be guided by the tests laid out in the Building Research Establishment (BRE) document 'Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight', A guide to good practice, Second Edition.

Right to Light Surveyors are often engaged to provide design advice and reports to confirm that new developments meet planning requirements.

Reports are usually required to avoid any unreasonable effects on neighbouring properties.  However, Local Authorities sometimes require a report to confirm adequate light levels within the proposed development itself.

Right Of Light Consulting

Right of Light Consulting