Jonathan Lynn, Partner of Courtyard Solicitors, recently received an enquiry where he was asked whether a homeowner has a right to gain access to a neighbour’s land so that they could fit solar panels to their roof. The short answer to that question was no, they had no right to access.
There are, however, circumstances where access to neighbouring land can be obtained even in the face of opposition by the neighbor. The law is set out in The Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992.
The general principle is that access can be obtained as of right where the access is necessary for the preservation of the whole/part of the property requiring work. In addition it must be impossible for the work to be carried out without access or the work must be substantially more difficult without access to the land.
The phrase “substantially more difficult” means that there must be a good deal of extra cost, and/or extra time, and/or technical difficulties involved if access to neighbouring land is not granted.
Access can not be compelled for improvements, only for preservation. However, if preservation works are ancillary to preservation works they will be allowed. So, for example, if a window has fallen into disrepair and needs to be replaced it is not necessary to do a like for like replacement. A newer type of window can be fitted. However, increasing the size of a window would not be work for which access can be gained as of right.
So applying this to the solar panel question, this would seem to be improvement work rather than preservation work , and even if it could in some way be argued that it was preservation work it is unlikely that access to the neighbour’s land would be necessary to fit them.
If you have been affected by a similar issue, and would like some legal advice on the matter, please don’t hesitate to email Jonathan Lynn.
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