Pavledes v Hadjisavva [2013] EWHC 124 (Ch)

Mr and Mrs Pavledes and Mr and Mrs Hadjisavva owned adjoining houses. The Hadjisavvas obtained planning consent for an extension to their property. The Pavledes obtained a surveyor’s report and asserted that the extension would infringe their rights to light. Extensive correspondence ensued in which the Hadjisavvas continued to deny that there would be any infringement. The Hadjisavvas undertook not to begin work on the extension without giving the Pavledes 14 days’ notice, but the undertaking was given without prejudice to the Hadjisavvas’ contention that the development would not affect the Pavledes’ rights. The Pavledes issued proceedings for a declaration that their rights to light would be infringed by the Hadjisavvas’ extension. The Hadjisavvas undertook that at least “for the foreseeable future” they would proceed on the basis that there would be an infringement. The Hadjisavvas then argued that, as there was no longer an imminent threat of infringement, it was inappropriate for the court to grant any declarations.

The court considered that it was open to it to grant the declarations sought and it was prepared to make those declarations in the circumstances. Whilst an injunction to prevent an infringement would only be available where there was a real threat of infringement, the same criteria did not apply to a declaration. The court would refuse to grant a declaration where it would be premature or serve no useful purpose. However, this was not such a case. The parties had been in dispute for three years and a declaration would bring finality to the dispute which would, for example, be important if the Pavledes wished to sell their property in the future. The judge noted that the Hadjisavvas may have been able to argue that a declaration was unnecessary if they had unconditionally accepted the Pavledes’ rights in their defence, but they had not done so. It was therefore appropriate for a declaration to be granted in favour of the Pavledes and for the Hadjisavvas to bear the costs of the proceedings.