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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Law Commission Says No Right to Light for Solar Panels

The Law Commission (LC), in its consultation on reforming rights to light law launched on 18 February, has stated solar panels are "almost certainly not capable of benefitting from a right to light" and it concludes they should not be afforded this protection.

I last looked at this issue in my post in May last year - What if New Buildings Overshadow Your Solar Panels?

The point hasn't been tested in the courts.

The LC's opinion however is that it's difficult to see how the law relating to rights of light can be extended to guarantee the flow of light to a solar panel, particularly bearing in mind the anomalous nature of negative easements and the reluctance of the courts to extend this class of easements any further.

The LC says the protection of solar panels by easements of light would be problematic.

"The “channel” through which the light protected under the current law passes is defined by the aperture in the building on the dominant land. By contrast a panel benefits from light from all angles, so it would be difficult to define the extent of the easement. The fact that solar panels enable a landowner to harvest solar energy rather than to illuminate a room would also raise difficult questions about the extent of protection provided by the right"

The LC argues it's already possible to create an express interest in land for the protection of a solar panel, by the use of restrictive covenants, although they think this would be unusual.

If solar panels were allowed to acquire rights by prescription (continuous use for 20 years), the LC argues, then the difficulties that arise from a proliferation of rights to light would be made even worse.

The LC concludes that allowing prescription for solar panels would be particularly problematic as it would be difficult for the affected landowners to establish the channels of light that benefit the panel.

As a consequence, the extent of the right would be uncertain and, potentially, very wide.

There is it seems no legal right to sunshine.

Those hoping for reform will be disappointed, both with the fact there's no recommendation for change and with the firm views expressed by the LC on the current law.

It's not surprising though given the LC's proposals on rights to light in general.

The LC is, after all, advocating that the creation of all rights to light by prescription (the enjoyment of light through a window without interruption for a period of 20 years) should be abolished, so anyone hoping for more protection for solar panels is clearly adrift of the prevailing trend.

Owners of solar panels will have to rely on what protection, if any, may be afforded by the planning system.

As  with tv aerials and satellite dishes, it's a case of caveat emptor – buyer beware.

Photo by Pink Dispatcher via Flickr

1 comment:

  1. What the LC says is largely irrelevant. The question of right to light for solar arrays THAT EXISTED AT THE TIME OF INSTALLATION is currently under review by the department of energy. It is difficult to see how the drive towards renewable energy could be upset by this very fundamental requirement and it is highly probable that new legislation could be implemented.