Ancient rights thrown out of the window

First the right to lawful sports and pastimes, next the right to light. Where will the abolition of our ancient rights end?

Last Monday (18 February) the Law Commission, with ministers’ backing, began to consult about plans to axe people’s ancient entitlement to daylight in their own homes. Currently, if the light has been constant for at least 20 years, the occupier has gained a right to light, and can object to neighbouring developments or extensions which block that light.

This consultation has been provoked by a high court case in Leeds in 2010. Here, Alexander Heaney, owner of a grade II listed Victorian building, took the developer of a neighbouring property to court, after the property had been built, because it blocked his light. The judges ordered the demolition of the top storeys.

Part of the driving force behind the consultation paper is ‘to ensure that rights to light do not act as an unnecessary constraint on development’, or that landowners can use the right to light vexatiously to prevent or delay development.

These are exactly the same motives as those behind clause 14 of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which threatens to prevent people from registering land as greens, even where they have evidence of 20 years use for recreation, if the land is earmarked for development.  See here.  The government has little evidence that greens are being registered vexatiously; it just finds them inconvenient.

In both cases the rights are ancient.  If you can prove 20 years enjoyment of light, or of land for recreation, you obtain the right to enjoy them under the law of prescription, an important tenet of the English and Welsh legal systems.

But because these ancient laws apparently stand in the way of development, this government will abolish them.


About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, Growth and Infrastructure Bill, town and village greens and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Ancient rights thrown out of the window

  1. stravaigerjohn says:


  2. stravaigerjohn says:

    Reblogged this on Over The Hills.

  3. pentrich1817 says:

    It is a good job conscientious people like Kate are fighting for our rights on a nationwide scale, what would we do without people like this wonderful lady? most of us only work on a localised scale but we would not be able to achieve our small efforts without people like Kate, hat tip to Kate 🙂

  4. What they need to bear in mind is that, cancelling our ‘right to light’, goes directly against all green policy either being brought in now or which needs to be brought in soon. If we don’t have sufficient daylight, we have to put the lights on and that wastes electricity which we’re all supposed to be cutting down on to save climate-changing emissions! Nuts!

  5. notdoneroaming says:

    One reason I’m against walkers groups being so vehemently against off-roaders green laneing is the excuses it gives this government. On one hand we walkers claim the off-road community is misusing ancient laws and we want their rights to access revoked. Then on other causes we stand by these ancient access rights to campaign for open spaces. What’s the stop the government asking what’s good for the goose? In this day and age all us users of the great outdoors need to work cooperatively to find solutions and keep our outdoors open to all. Because the lot we have in power note will use any excuse to divide and take from all groups.

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