The recent case of Ottercroft sent out a clear message from the courts to developers that poor conduct will not be tolerated and could lead to injunctions being granted where previously damages would have been awarded.
Scandia Care Limited was a developer carrying out works on a small development of their premises in High Wycombe. Dr Rahimian was a director of Scandia but was for all intents and purposes the controlling influence behind the company.
Part of the mixed use development included the replacement of an existing wooden staircase with a metal staircase on the exterior of the building. The new staircase infringed Ottercroft’s right to light.
Ottercroft raised objections to the development, they were a restaurant and the staircase was blocking their kitchen windows. Scandia was aware of the objections and the fact they were infringing Ottercroft’s rights, but chose to proceed regardless. This was in spite of Ottercroft threatening legal proceedings.
In the face of threatened legal proceedings and clear objection being raised, both Scandia and Dr Rahimian gave undertakings to Ottercroft that its right to light would not be infringed by the development. In clear breach of their undertakings Scandia then continued to proceed with the works on the site at a time when they knew Ottercroft’s premises to be empty.
In light of the behaviour of the developer and Dr Rahimian, the County Court granted a mandatory injunction requiring the removal of the staircase (upheld on appeal). This was despite the fact that the value of the right to light infringement was £886 and the cost of removing the staircase was estimated to be around £6,000.
This is a right to light case that provides an excellent demonstration of the regard that the court will have for bad conduct when considering whether to grant an injunction. A relatively minor infringement of a neighbour’s right to light resulted in an injunction being granted for the benefit of Ottercroft. Although this measure seemed fairly draconian, on closer inspection of the defendants conduct it was clear they had acted in an unconscionable manner.
The key take home point from this case is that the court will place significant weight on the conduct of the parties. In Ottercroft a relatively minor infringement with limited monetary implications was the subject of an injunction due to the defendants breach of undertakings and deceptive behaviour.
Ottercroft Limited v (1) Scandia Care Limited (2) Dr Mehrdad Rahimian  EWCA Civ 867