Right-of-light update: a lighter touch by the courts

By Simon Pestell

The recent Supreme Court case of Coventry and others v Lawrence and another (2014) UKSC 13 should be welcomed by developers, as it heralds a shift in the court’s approach to the exercise of its discretion to award damages instead of an injunction.

Following a number of recent cases, developers have been negotiating in the knowledge that an injunction is likely to be granted in almost every case where the development would cause a significant interference with the access of light to a neighbouring property that enjoys a right of light.

The basic finding of Lord Neuberger in Coventry v Lawrence was that the courts had been applying the classic test as to whether damages should be granted instead of an injunction too strictly. The test was formulated in the landmark case of Shelfer v City of London Electric Lighting Co (1895) and states that the court should consider awarding damages instead of an injunction if all the following criteria are met..

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