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  • Writer's pictureNíall Hedderman

Homeowners Do Not Have The Right To a View

One evening a few weeks ago, I was disturbed from my routine by a knock on the door. I was greeted by an activist from one of the main political parties, reminding me that there would be a by-election for the local Edinburgh City Council seat vacated by Ian Murray, who became a Westminster MP in the recent general election. The activist asked if I would like to meet their candidate, I accepted, since I suspected their man was likely to win and therefore have a direct impact on local decisions.

As a self employed Architect,

 I was keen to know how this candidate would approach local planning review decisions, especially since he had not served on the Council before. He had never been asked this but had read the Local Planning Guidelines and thought them an excellent guide to any decisions he may have to make during the planning appeal process.

We discussed the planning process at length and eventually got on to the topic of neighbours objections to planning applications. The candidate told me he believed that if a proposed building would lead to a neighbours loss of a view, this should be sufficient grounds to refuse the planning application.

It surprises many homeowners that they don't automatically have a right to a view.

It surprised me that a prospective councillor would try to introduce such a disruptive change to planning law especially in an urban constituency.

At first it sounds outrageous that if someone wants to build something between your house and it's best view, you can't use that loss of view as the only objection to the planning application. What some people are quick to forget, especially if they live in a city, is that the buildings they use for work, rest and play are inevitably blocking someone's view. If the planning law was changed to give everyone the right to a view, it would make constructing new buildings in cities nearly impossible.

Look at it another way, if you came home to find you house had been knocked, would your neighbour's view have improved?

Living in a city is a compromise 

We live cheek by jowl and put up with noise, expense and traffic so we can benefit from more economic opportunities, more varied entertainment and greater social opportunities. One of the prices we pay for this is that we don't all qualify for a panoramic view.

Giving every home-owner an equal right to a view is one of those grand ideas that appeals to our sense of fairness but would cause untold chaos. Like communism.

One sensible document Edinburgh Council has produced is the Protection of Key Views guideline. This is a list of over 150 particular views of the castle and other Edinburgh landmarks, from “a number of public vantage points” that are protected. Any change to the roof line of buildings within the view cones come under particular scrutiny during planning applications.

This policy is sensible and it is democratic. The view from the street, where anyone can stand, is protected from the whim of individual developers.

In any event, planning law on this scale is not decided by local authorities but by the parliament. Our candidate won't get the opportunity to implement his vision just yet.

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