Quarterly in advance Summer 2018 – Can I protect my view?

09 / 07 / 2018

“I have a house in the countryside, which has spectacular views, which were the main reason for purchasing it.  I have lived there for over 20 years, but the neighbouring land has recently been sold to a developer, who I understand, plans to build five houses on it, which will ruin the view from my property. Can I do anything to stop this?”

Perhaps surprisingly, a right for a property to enjoy a view is not recognised by the law, nor is there any direct method of protecting a view.  This is notwithstanding that an attractive view may have a significant impact on the value of a property and may be an important factor in the decision to purchase.  However, in order to protect a view, it would be necessary for the law to impose a burden on a potentially large and undefined area, which would present many practical difficulties. In spite of this, there may still be ways of preventing (or at least restricting the extent of) the proposed development on the neighbouring land.

Planning

The development will require planning permission and, as a neighbour, you will have the opportunity to object to the application for permission, when this is made.  However, when considering the application, the planning authority will not be directly concerned with protecting the view from your property, although matters relating to visual amenity generally or any issue of overlooking may be relevant factors to be taken into account.

Restrictive covenants

It is possible that the title to the neighbouring land is subject to restrictions prohibiting or limiting the development of the site.  As a first stage, it would be necessary to check the title to both the neighbouring land (to see whether it is subject to any such restriction) and also the title to your own property (to verify whether it has the benefit).  However, it seems unlikely that the developer would have proceeded with the purchase, if there had been any such restrictions.

Rights of light

It is likely that the house on your land enjoys rights of light over adjoining properties.  Technically, it is the windows (or window apertures) which acquire the rights, having received light for a period of  20 years or more.   I note that you have actually lived at the property for this period, so you will have first-hand knowledge of whether this is the case.  It would be necessary to check the title to your property to ensure that there is no restriction on the acquisition of such rights.  It will also be necessary to employ the services of a rights of light surveyor to determine the extent of such rights and whether the proposed development would result in substantial interference  with them.  It would only be if the new houses were to be built near to the boundary of your property (and very close to your house), that there is likely to be a substantial interference with the rights enjoyed by your property, in order to provide you with a legal right of action.