It is a long established principle in English Law, first recorded in 1610, that a land owner can not protect the view that he has from that land; the rationale is that it would unduly limit the freedom to build on one's own land and thereby hinder beneficial development. However this basic premise, under specific circumstances, has been successfully challenged in the Court of Appeal.
Case of Dennis v Davies
The case of Dennis v Davies (2009) concerned a dispute regarding a modern development, adjacent to the River Thames, which had been specifically designed, and sold, on the basis that each property had a river view.
The owner of one of the riverside houses decided to build an extension that would obstruct the views of the river from neighbouring properties within the development. Under the traditional law, the neighbouring owners had lost their view, not only potentially damaging property values, but also providing a precedent for other properties being developed and thus blocking other river views.
However, all the property owners in the development were subject to, and had the benefit of, a specific covenant that they would ‘not cause a nuisance or annoyance’ to their neighbours. The first part of that covenant was of no help because an obstruction of a view is not an actionable claim; however, the part concerning annoyance was and, on that basis, the development was blocked.
This is a fairly exceptional circumstance and the Court took into account the fact that this development had been designed so that each and every property would benefit from river views. Furthermore, the wide covenant that applied to each property ensured that neighbouring owners should not cause an annoyance to each other. This case has highlighted the importance of reviewing title documents when a dispute arises over land.
The general position remains therefore that there is no right to a view; however, as can be seen, a precedent has been set for exceptions to apply.