Our ‘right to light’ is under threat according to The Telegraph today. While the proposal reported would be restricted to developments in the last twenty years, the government consulted at the end of last year on allowing larger extensions to homes without planning permission.
Does this matter here at the southern seaside? Central Brighton and Hove is one of the most densely populated areas of the country, so it does. The continued assault on the rights of neighbours to have their say on the amenity of their neighbourhood is completely at odds with the move towards neighbourhood planning. Here we are stacked across the hills in our bungaroosh (see below) boxes, many of them poorly converted and badly extended into flats, or into often grotty HMOs crammed with tenants. Gardens are mostly tiny and at a premium, many already in the shadow of imposing extensions or loomed over by loft conversions.
Many homes are fully or part basement, prone to damp and much in need of available light. While allowing unregulated extension may precipitate unsightly suburbs, in already dense urban areas it can have a real impact on our health and amenity. Brighton is a great place to live, it is crowded and we are a tolerant lot. However, over development causes tension between neighbours – with noise problems already frequent. Impositions without consultation can only breed resentment. After all, 0ur bungaroosh boxes are our sandcastles.
The experience to date of myself and some neighbours is that our once bright outside spaces are now overshadowed (and that is with planning regulation). Patios where we once snatched a couple of hours sun in high summer remain shaded. Our tomatoes no longer ripen in the shadows of extensions. Planned development is already filling up our neighbours’ back yards with wet rooms and conservatories. Upstairs windows that offered light and maybe an oblique view, now face a blank rendered wall and bedrooms are blighted by night light as computer man burns the midnight oil in his new loft conversion.
So, if your neighbour puts up an extension that dims your view in the day – or illuminates your bedroom through the night – it matters. Singularly there may be impact on an individual household – but the cumulative effect is insidiously altering the amenity of our neighbourhoods – for the worse.
The consultation document on extending permitted development rights asserted “These added flexibilities will not be at the expense of neighbours and the surrounding community.” They will. We need natural light to live – it connects us with the world outside and makes us happy. Loss of light means more need for artificial light, increasing bills. Imposing light at night can disrupt our sleep (and that of wildlife). Planning is not prevention of development – it is a consensus building process, enlightening developers, officials and neighbours to each others’ views and needs – they won’t always agree – but it is far preferable to creating neighbourhoods seething with shadowy resentment.
A note on Bungeroosh
For any ‘foreigners’ reading this, bungaroosh is basically any old rubble covered in plaster. Many of us Brightonians pay the price for our seaside idyll, dwelling in crumbly damp buildings that could ‘easily be demolished with a well aimed hose’ – but that’s another story… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungaroosh