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Everyone Has a Right to Daylight – High Court Ruling

Everyone has a right to live in daylight and, in one case, the High Court overturned a residential planning permission after objectors complained that the development would put an adjoining area of land, used by primary school pupils as an outdoor classroom and play area, in the shade.

In granting consent for a three-storey block, encompassing a café and two flats, on a vacant inner city site, the local authority accepted on the basis of an officer’s report that the development would improve the under-utilised site and enhance the appearance of the conservation area.

Objections to the proposals focused on a neighbouring open area which was used by pupils at a nearby primary school. It was said that the project would overshadow the area and result in a substantial reduction in the amount of sunlight reaching it, particularly during the winter months.

Councillors found that 87.6 per cent of the area currently received sunlight and that would only fall to 76.6 per cent following the development, which had been reduced from four storeys to three during the planning process. They concluded that Building Research Establishment guidelines in respect of sunlight were thus comfortably met.

In upholding a judicial review challenge and quashing the permission, however, the Court found that the officer’s report contained an error of fact in that it assumed that the area was fenced, although it was in fact surrounded by a wall. The mistake had unwittingly created a misleading picture, to the disadvantage of objectors, on the critical sunlight issue.

Other grounds of challenge were dismissed and the Court noted that it was not concerned with the planning merits of the proposals – which were on the face of it strong – and was wholly neutral as to whether the council should grant or refuse permission on reconsidering the developer’s application.

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