Chhavie Kapoor & Mark Reading
Estates Gazette
01 June 2015

Estates Gazette: Solar panels - guidance needed to avoid costly disputes

Mishcon de Reya's Chhavie Kapoor and Mark Reading look at the legal position on solar panels and ask whether they will become the next category of prescriptive easement.

Key points

  • A landowner is entitled to build on or alter existing buildings located on his land notwithstanding that the new or altered building interferes with the access of light to land belonging to neighbouring or adjoining owners. This is the case unless those owners have acquired rights of light.
  • Rights of light can be acquired by express grant or reservation through 20 years’ long use. They protect the access of light through a defined opening (such as a window) located in a building.
  • There is no case law that considers whether solar panels, which receive light over neighbouring or adjoining land, can acquire a prescriptive right to receive light through 20 years’ use.
  • The Law Commission is of the view that solar panels almost certainly cannot acquire rights to receive light.
  • Given the increasing use of solar panels, judicial and/or legislative input is required sooner rather than later to address the question of whether solar panels can or cannot acquire a right to receive light.

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