Overshadowing is often referred to in the context of urban and householder planning applications but it is unusual to come across a decision where the issue was, at least in part, determinative.
In a recent appeal, a purpose-built residential and student accommodation development in Aberdeen was refused planning permission because of the light impacts it would have on adjacent flats.
Although the developer had complied with the specified minimum separation distance (18 metres) between facing windows, at a distance of 21 metres from an existing 4-storey block the Reporter felt that in the particular circumstances of the development this was insufficient because of overshadowing and privacy impacts.
Broadly speaking, however, property owners in Scotland do not have an automatic “right to light” – that is an entitlement to natural light coming into your property without being blocked or restricted by another person’s property.
There is limited protection where there is ‘common interest’ between properties – the typical example arising where a building is owned in parts, one proprietor can’t harm another’s use or enjoyment of their property.
But otherwise you may find that if a once sunny garden or room becomes shaded by a neighbour’s new extension or shed, you have no recourse in law.
In contrast, in England and Wales, there is a recognised “right to light”. If a new building or structure reduces light coming into your property below a certain level, you are able to take legal action against the neighbour and may well be entitled to compensation and/or the neighbour might be required to alter their development.