Summary and implications

The appeal of the High Court Judgment in the Heaney case1 has settled before it reached the Court of Appeal.

The Heaney decision was made on the particular facts presented to the court. It has always been the case that a judge can grant an injunction to protect a right of light and the Heaney case does not make this outcome any more, or less, likely.

However, the settlement is disappointing news for developers who were hoping that the Court of Appeal would clarify when an injunction is likely to be granted for an infringement of a neighbour’s rights of light.

In Heaney, a developer was ordered to demolish part of a completed building because it infringed neighbouring rights of light. What made the case unusual was that the neighbouring owner did not take any substantive action while the development work was taking place.

The developer kept the neighbouring owner informed about the development work and even attempted to negotiate with him to reach a settlement.

The neighbouring owner was not criticised, nor was he prevented from obtaining an injunction, for failing to issue proceedings at an earlier stage, even though he could see the building going up.

The situation remains that:

  • Developers must be aware that the court may grant an injunction for a building to be demolished.  
  • An injunction is possible even where a development has been completed without the neighbouring owner taking any substantive action while the work was taking place.  
  • Developers should try to settle all potentially actionable interferences with rights of light before they begin a development, or arrange appropriate insurance to cover any claims.