Apple target site embroiled in sunlight wrangle

LONDON Fri Sep 2, 2011 10:35am BST

Raindrops are seen in front of an Apple logo outside an Apple retail store in Shanghai August 25, 2011. REUTERS/Aly Song

Raindrops are seen in front of an Apple logo outside an Apple retail store in Shanghai August 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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LONDON (Reuters) - A future London development that could house the first Apple Inc store in the City financial district has become the latest scheme caught up in a legal wrangle over neighbouring properties' rights to sunlight.

The plot's current owner, the City of London local authority, has asked its transport and policy committees to approve powers that would enable it to override laws that allow neighbours to stop developments that block their sunlight.

More important is the economic benefit the scheme will bring to the area, the City planning officer and comptroller and City solicitor said in a report to the committees, which appears on the local authority's website.

The proposed 10-storey development at 100 Cheapside has planning permission for 87,000 square feet of offices and 13,000 square feet of retail.

U.S. developer Hines is in talks to buy the site for under 25 million pounds and Apple is interested in taking space there, a source close to the process told Reuters.

"The development affects a total of 13 properties, eight to an extent that their owners are likely to seek injunctions preventing the development proceeding," the report said. The committees will vote this month.

A spokesman for the City of London declined to comment.

Some developers are shying away from projects until greater clarity is brought to "rights to light" laws following a court ruling last year that part of an office building in Leeds be torn down over the issue.

The Highcross versus Heaney case was later settled without being tested at appeal and the building remains intact, but the case has left uncertainty in the industry.

Rights of light issues have traditionally been resolved informally, often with millions of pounds changing hands before building work begins, or via the workaround -- or power to bypass the law -- which uses Section 237 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

The report also pointed to a contribution of 762,000 pounds the developer would make towards community improvements and the Crossrail east-west train link as part of the deal.

Trade magazine Property Week reported Friday that airline Ryanair's boss Michael O'Leary was involved in a legal dispute over the same issue with developers Great Portland Estates and Capital & Counties over a London scheme next to a building he controls.

The City of London already has the power to use the workaround for the skyscraper known as the Walkie Talkie, which is being developed by Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group in the same financial district.

(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

Corrects paragraph six to say this month not next month.

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