Australian news, and some related international items

Solar panels and the law: Can you stop your neighbour from blocking your sunlight?

It’s a problem central Adelaide resident Jo Thomas was forced to confront when she learned a developer had plans to build a four-storey building next door.

Dr Thomas is a medical doctor who lives in a small, medium density development called Christie Walk, which has 27 dwellings and a community garden.

“The emphasis is on nature and people-friendly urban development,” she said.

“The plans were for a four-storey, very much box-like construction of apartments, on our boundary.

“The development had a big impact for us. For me personally it was going to throw quite a lot of shadow over my photovoltaic solar collectors and solar hot water system.

“But also for other residents, it was going to dramatically overshadow the community garden.”………

What rights exist around access to light?

As of April 2017, 1.6 million properties around Australia had photovoltaic solar panels — and new figures from the Australian Photovoltaic Institute show the country’s solar power capacity is expected to double over the next few years.

So what does Dr Thomas’s case mean for the rest of the country’s solar panel owners? Do they have a right to sunlight without overshadowing?

Peter Clarke, a lawyer with Sydney firm Hones Lawyers, said under many local government planning guidelines and development controls, there is a requirement that private open living spaces receive a certain amount of direct sunlight per day, with a minimum requirement on the winter solstice, June 21.

“Most jurisdictions require about three hours of sunlight into a private open living space,” he said.

But the rules around access to sunlight for solar panels are much murkier.

A number of Australian jurisdictions have best practice guidelines and development controls that are set out as objectives.

But in terms of an actual right enshrined in law, nothing of the kind really exists………

A zoning conundrum

Mr Clarke said problems tend to arise when a zone for low-density housing, like one or two-storey detached dwellings, butts up against a zone for higher-density residential dwellings, like apartments — “particularly if it’s on your northern boundary”.

Mr Clarke said around the country, cases of this type have gone before the courts.

“Quite frequently, people have little recourse when an issue of overshadowing arises from buildings,” he said.

“And in some states, no recourse whatsoever, if that overshadowing is caused by trees that haven’t been trimmed, for example.”

There are cases in which developments that would have overshadowed solar panels have been halted.

But for the most part these have been complicated matters, involving a decision that was made for reasons beyond merely a simple “right to light” for solar panels.

In one Victorian case, the City of Melbourne v Chen, a development was proposed that would have stopped sunlight from hitting an existing dwelling with 14 solar panels on the roof………

May 16, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, solar

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: