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We must protect our Right to Light

Michael Ball, Waterloo Community Development Group

This pandemic has been a great leveller – we’re all in it together. Remember that slogan from austerity? Like austerity, the pandemic has also exposed vast inequalities.

A home with good daylight and access to green space has proved critical to well-being and mental health during lockdown. This isn’t rocket science. Exposure to sunlight increases release of mood-boosting serotonin.

Now, the new London Plan sounds sunny enough, promising Good Growth by design – optimising designs which benefit everyone, including protecting the daylight that comes into our homes.

But the new London Plan draft guidance – the small print – proposes cutting the amount of daylight deemed adequate by up to half! How? The existing BRE guidelines for sunlight and daylight have been in place for 30 years. Is there new research that shows we need less daylight? Nope.

Instead, the GLA commissioned a company called Point2 to draft ‘alternative values’. Point2 are the go-to advisers on daylight… for developers. They promise on their website

we add game changing value when delivering planning permission for our clients... allowing us to overcome major daylight and sunlight issues at planning… and to justify the use of alternative target values.”

This isn’t Good Growth by design, it’s bad growth by stealth. And it has very real impacts. A live application at Albert Embankment almost snuck through which would reduce daylight to over 400 homes, and halve the daylight to council flats where, on just one floor, for example, twelve children live, three heavily disabled. Luckily, the local community got the application called in – and Point 2 defended it!

This is the future – unless it’s changed. We contacted GLA members from all parties and not one of them knew about this proposed change to guidance. Transparency?

I'm doing a webinar in a couple of weeks on daylight issues and how our local community can deconstruct daylight reports. If this is successful, I'll repeat it for a wider audience of communities across London – please check our website and follow us on twitter.


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