Don’t let the developers take your last civil right – the right to light

Plus: The nonchalance of bus passengers and their furry animal hats


A year or so ago I had the dubious honour of receiving members of the council planning committee at home.

They’d come to look through our windows to judge how far our light would be affected by plans to replace the adjacent offices with a block of flats three storeys higher – higher not just than the offices but than the existing restrictions for the area.

The reason they came in person is that the right to light – a right that dates from the 17th century – is one of the few grounds on which residents can object effectively to new developments. You can protest against the style, or the use, or the noise, or the extra traffic a new building might bring. But none of that is a showstopper. Your right to light is – which is why, when I read a small, understated news report saying it was being challenged that I (1) jumped out of my skin and (2) felt all my fury against the new block, now being built, rekindled.

The Law Commission, it turns out, has begun a consultation into whether this last bulwark of the “little person’s” right to enjoy their  home should be kept, the right to see the same little bit of sky you thought you had bought with your flat. Big developers blame it – as they would – for stalling the urban housebuilding that is so desperately needed. Their argument is that they have to build higher to reap the returns that make a project worthwhile. 

My argument is that the less light you have, the more precious it is and the more legal safeguards it deserves. Those who have successfully claimed the right to “ancient lights” down the years, understood this in a way today’s development-hungry councils do not. Maybe they all live in houses with gardens. Or maybe they just don’t notice when the sun comes out.

The regrettable fact is that the right to light has already been eroded by the experts whom construction companies retain to “prove” that their developments are within the law. The application for the block outside our windows included a whole volume of calculations designed to show that any loss of light was negligible. I’m not against tall buildings as such, even tall buildings in my sightline. But let them be designed in a way that our light is either not worsened or, dare I say, improved. Unfortunately, councils lack imag-ination and developers can’t cram in so many flats that way. Fellow light-lovers – aux barricades.

Lions and tigers and bears... 

During the recent cold spell, you must have noticed all those people, old enough to know better, sporting furry animal hats. In fact, this is the least of it. Shortly before Christmas a tiger got on my bus. He had his tail trailed casually over his front paw and he was carrying his head – but otherwise, he was a tiger. I’ve shared Tube carriages with grizzly bears and with adult angels, their wings tall enough to brush the roof.

But this week, a sight capped them all – a man in a wolf hat that was real wolf, with the pelt and tail draped down his back. The strange thing about all these spectacles is that not one of my fellow passengers gave them a second glance, either to smile or roll their eyes. Either this is proof positive of the Great British phlegm – or, well, the cold has got to my brain.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave