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

Share

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

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

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee CAD Technician

£12800 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee CAD Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000+

£15600 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This renewable energy installat...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Amanda Knox will learn today if her conviction for murdering British student Mereditch Kercher has been upheld  

Amanda Knox: A retrial, two films and endless speculation - will the fascination with Meredith Kercher's murder ever end?

Peter Popham
 

We’re on a very slippery slope if we accept what Clean Reader is trying to do

Joanne Harris
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss