Loss of a view is often cited in planning objection letters by home owners understandably concerned about how this will affect their property. Unfortunately, there’s no right to a view under the planning system.
On the face of it, this might seem unfair, so let’s explore this issue a little further and explain exactly what is, and what isn’t, a valid planning objection.
The modern planning system effectively curtails the freedom of landowners to use their property without interference from the state. As the planning system has expanded in scope and complexity, that freedom has become increasingly curtailed – in some conservation areas you can’t even change your front door without planning permission.
This interference in private property rights needs to be justified; and so it is. Planning controls exist to regulate land use and development in the public interest. In so doing, decision makers often have to balance competing interests, which may include private interests. However, the overall decision should always serve the public interest.
Sometimes that public interest coincides with private interests. For example, the courts have long accepted that it’s in the public interest to protect private residents from unreasonable intrusion, for example, as a result of excessive overlooking. This maintains acceptable living conditions. As this is something we all benefit from, it’s in the public interest to do so.
Views from private property, on the other hand, usually only benefit a privileged few. Moreover, preserving those views might prevent much needed development, such as community housing, from taking place. This would not normally be in the wider public interest. So when it comes to balancing these competing interests, the planning system will protect you from unreasonable intrusion, but it won’t guarantee you an unrestricted view.
When it comes to public views, it’s a different matter. Public views, by their very nature, are matters of public interest. National and local planning policies include measures to protect landscape and townscape, including important public views. There are various special designations, such as conservation areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, that afford further protection.
The legal precedents are clear on this point. The effect on property value is not a planning matter and cannot be taken into account in planning decisions. This too is in the public interest. Since almost all development is likely to have some effect on property values, it would be impossible to develop the housing and other facilities we need if development could be prevented on this basis.
Whilst the planning system won’t protect the view from your window, outlook is very important in planning terms. Loss of outlook occurs where development would have an adverse overbearing effect that would result in an unduly oppressive living environment for existing and future residents.
Unlike loss of a view, loss of outlook is a valid planning objection. Moreover, loss of outlook is difficult to quantify and necessarily involves a degree of subjective judgement on the part of the decision maker. This means each objection must be carefully considered on its merits.
There are limits of course. The outlook from a property is never going to be as extensive as a view. Nevertheless, loss of outlook will nearly always provide a much stronger basis for objection than the loss of a view.
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