Whilst the advantages are clear for the party who proposes to undertake a project under permitted development, but what about the rights of adjoining owners who may be affected in some way by the proposed development? For example, take a single storey side extension to a semi-detached dwelling. The extension will be only 1.5 metres from the neighbour’s external wall (not the boundary), however the height of the extension will be 2.8 metres at the eaves (the junction of the top of the wall and roof). Even though a new extension will impact on the available light to the neighbour’s kitchen windows, this is still classified as permitted development. The photograph below shows the new extension on the left hand side.
All is not completely lost however, as there is a law that may provide a way of challenging 'loss of light' and that is the Prescription Act 1832. If a new building/structure limits or reduces the amount of light available through windows and when measured the level of light falls outside 'acceptable levels', this could then be deemed to be an obstruction. If this is the case then you may be able to take legal action against the party who created that obstruction.
If you think you may have a case in respect of the above you must first think very carefully and weigh up the possible benefits of starting legal proceedings. Do not be under the impression that if you are successful that your neighbour will be required to remove or make significant alterations to their development. This is only likely to happen in extreme circumstances where the new building or structure has been constructed outside the requirements of permitted development, or has breached other statutory requirements. The general outcome of cases of this nature is that the development will remain and the court may apportion a certain level of compensation for the general reduction of light.
In conclusion, in certain circumstances permitted development appears to disregard the rights of adjoining owners, and at present there is very little that can be done to stop this happening. In a 'free' society like the UK this does seem to be unacceptable, and maybe it is now time for permitted development guidelines to be amended to close this loop hole.
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