Right to Low Carbon

This week all attention seems on rights to light. A proposal has been made that the historic right to occupy your home without needing to turn the lights on during the hours of daylight could be brushed away in order to permit more dense urban development.

Surely this is another example of legislators failing to consider the consequences of their actions. We are driving forward with national legislation to force all new buildings to become zero carbon in an attempt to meet our carbon budgets. Meanwhile, work by the Green Construction Board indicates that we will need to work just as hard, if not harder, to cut carbon emissions from the existing building stock. Now we have a proposal that will force an increase in energy consumption on the neighbours of new development that is deemed desirable. I have no doubt that the desirability of the new developments will be based on their energy efficiency credentials, so who actually stands to win from this situation?

However, in the sustainable urban future, we will find that other rights become just as important as rights to light. Our plan to decarbonise the UK presently relies on the pervasive use of PV in the urban environment to supposedly offset carbon emissions at other times of the year. As taxation falls more heavily on carbon emissions I believe that we will see more and more legal disputes over someone interfering with neighbours attempts to cut energy consumption. This will not be just over rights to daylight, but I predict disputes over rights to unpolluted fresh air for natural ventilation and access to renewable energy sources such as the wind and sunshine.

Photo of PV shaded by taller building

This PV installation was an exemplar when installed, until the neighbours built higher.

Since Government is presently considering changes to legislation on rights to light, now is the time to look to the future that we want to build for ourselves and implement broader and better informed legislation that protects building owners rights to comply with carbon emissions legislation in the manner that suits them best.

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