I love far-fetched ideas.  If for nothing more than that they are thought provoking.  So take this one:  “Those who lose views should be compensated”.  This is a statement made by Policy Exchange, the right-wing think tank at which Mr Pickles recently pledged, amongst other things, for the nation to become one of self-builders – see our blog post earlier this week. 

The view is put in a thought piece entitled “How the Government can boost housing between now and 2015” – under the heading “Trying to treat those near new homes fairly”.  It suggests that an example of “madness” in the current planning system is that the loss of a view  – an inevitable result of building on bare land, often at the edge of an existing town or village - cannot be taken into account in making planning decisions.  It goes on to say that “it is simply not fair or respectful of property rights to do anything else” – that is, to compensate. 

The point is there is no such thing in property law as a “right to a view” – so there is no compensatable loss, as compensation law has established over the course of many years.  Is the suggestion that a whole new property right should be created? 

Think on into the future where such a right to a view exists.  How would you measure the compensation for its loss?  Presumably, we are talking about a “good” view, but then beauty being in the eye of the beholder this is a somewhat subjective concept.  And who would pay the compensation?  Is it suggested that the local planning authority, granting planning consent which would have the effect of depriving a householder of a view, has to pay? Or would it be the landowner/developer undertaking the development?  If the former, it is hard to see how a subjective right could be properly valued and paid for from the public purse.  If the latter, even as the housing market improves and land values recover, viability remains a serious issue and here is another cost to put into the equation.

But think again.  In assessing compensation under the compulsory purchase legislation, there is the concept of "betterment" to be taken into account - that is the increase in value of property due to the development proposed.  There are many instances where new development brings with it great improvements to the local community and adds to the value of existing property – in the form of better local services both specifically in new community facilities and more generally.  Well designed, good quality new development should enhance the local, wider community, and so off-set the loss of a view.