A complicated scheme involving developers, surveyors, councils and consultants is letting daylight standards slip across the city—and throwing more more residents in the darkby Jessica Brown / July 17, 2020 / Leave a comment
Michael Ball had been renting a flat on Albert Embankment on the south bank of the Thames for six years before his view became blocked by a behemoth of a building site in 1999. On the former site of a less intrusive 1930s government building, the development eventually turned into a curved, 14-storey, glass-and-steel luxury apartment building called Parliament View in autumn 2001.
The shadow the development would cast across the flat didn’t cross Ball’s mind—until it was too late. He was working from home when the building was completed, and suddenly found that he had to keep his lights on all day. He quickly became sluggish and tired, and stopped socialising. “I got very depressed. Depression is a strange thing—you don’t know what’s happening to you.” He felt, he remembers, “a sense of desperation as this cloud gradually engulfed me.”
Ball cycled and swam, and tried to keep busy with work, but nothing alleviated his mood. “All of these strategies were failing to stop the engulfing cycle of emptiness, lethargy, hibernation, all of which feed upon themselves as you gradually spiral down, pulling the bedclothes further and further over your head.” Ball moved out of the flat when Parliament View turned one year old—and has been campaigning for the “right to light” ever since.
We all need daylight, as is made apparent every year when early sunsets trigger seasonal affective disorder. For millions, the days of winter are dark in more sense than one. Regular access to daylight is, says therapist Rakhi Chand, among the most vital factors affecting mental health. It is one of those areas where there is no clear line between its physical and psychological impacts. As well as being important in the production of Vitamin D, daylight plays a key part in regulating sleep that is, in turn, essential for all sorts of things. “Our natural body clock relies on easy access to light,” Chand explains, “and if our access is limited it can affect our sleep pattern.” Our body does repair and growth work while we sleep, and regulates mood and stress hormones serotonin and cortisol, and so if you deprive someone of daylight, you play havoc with all of this. Therapists such…