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Growing awareness of right to light in Ireland

Environmental
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By Rudi Hare | July 30, 2020

Right to light cases are growing more common in larger cities in Ireland and are following a similar path as in the UK.

If you’ve developed or are planning to develop in Dublin you probably are aware of the height limits Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has eased since late 2018. Prior to guidelines published in December 2018, maximum building heights in city and town centre areas have tended towards the range of six to eight storeys1. However, what you may not know is the potential threat that right to light can pose to new developments.

Right to light is not a new issue facing developers, especially in the UK where it is considered in relation to the profitability and ultimately the viability of the proposed scheme. Now this trend is growing more common in larger cities in Ireland and seems to follow the same trajectory as in the UK.

In my experience over the last 12 months I have seen a significant increase in the number of requests for right to light (as well as Judicial Review) insurance across the whole of Ireland, with the largest number of enquiries relating to developments in Dublin, Cork and Belfast. These requests are reflective of the intention to protect developers against neighbours claiming infringement of their right to light.

It certainly appears there is an increasing awareness of rights to light in Ireland. Therefore, if you are planning to develop in Ireland, I recommended that you factor in some additional risk management to avoid unwanted delays, costs and even an injunction.

The Sandymount case

A good example of how Judicial Review and right to light can pose a very real threat, is the unique High Court judicial review case over the impact of a proposed development on the energy efficiency of a neighbouring building, which could have “far-reaching consequences” for future planning applications according to the planning lawyer on the case2.

The case concerns the extension of a residential building in Sandymount, Dublin 4, which a neighbour claims will impact her right to light and her Building Energy Rating (BER). The applicant is claiming that the extension will force her to use more heating and artificial light, resulting in a breach of the Dublin City Development Plan 2016-2022, a government policy that prioritises measures to address climate change by way of effective mitigation and implementation of policies which reduce energy consumption, loss and wastage. The claimant insists that the effect the neighbours’ development has on the sustainability, energy efficiency and BER of their property, has not been considered.

Whilst this case is not specifically in relation to rights to light as we know it in the UK, it is a small step from making a Judicial Review application on the grounds noted above, to making a claim for an injunction/compensation on the grounds of an infringement to a neighbour’s right to light.

As more high-rise buildings are planned in Ireland, the number of objections and attempts to prevent development are likely to increase. Therefore, to protect against this potential threat, please ensure that right to light (and Judicial Review) is a priority consideration within the early stages of design and viability discussions on a project.

Footnotes

1 https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/
publications/files/urban_development_and_building_height_guidelines_for_planning_authorities_december_2018.pdf


2 https://www.businesspost.ie/legal/unique-high-court-judicial-review-could-affect-planning-permissions-181c3206


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