A culvert had been constructed taking a stream underneath the road. At the time when it came into the ownership of the local authority, it was adequate for this purpose. Later developments increased the flow, and the culvert came to become an obstruction leading to the claimant’s property being flooded. It was checked regularly, but no steps taken to increase the capacity. It was held that the local authority could become liable in nuisance when such a feature for which they had responsibility came to be an obstruction to the escape of material occurring naturally on land.
Times 08-Jan-2001, Gazette 05-Apr-2001,  EWCA Civ 300,  EWCA Civ 299,  BLR 55
England and Wales
Appeal from – Bybrook Barn Garden Centre Ltd and Others v Kent County Council QBD 5-Nov-1999
Owners of land downstream of a culvert had their lands flooded after works on land upstream changed the water flow, causing the culvert to be inadequate to cope with the water now running off.
Held: The culvert did not constitute a nuisance, . .
Cited – Corporation of Greenock v Caledonian Railway Company HL 1917
The West Burn flowed in a channel considerably below the surrounding ground which drained into it and in particular was below the level of Inverkip Road. In 1908, in order to form a playground for children, the natural channel of the West Burn was . .
Cited – Sedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan HL 24-Jun-1940
Occupier Responsible for Nuisance in adopting it
A trespasser laid a drain along a ditch on the defendant’s land. Later the defendants came to use the drain themselves. A grate was misplaced by them so that in a heavy rainstorm, it became clogged with leaves, and water flowed over into the . .
Applied – Leakey v The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty CA 31-Jul-1979
Natural causes were responsible for soil collapsing onto neighbouring houses in Bridgwater.
Held: An occupier of land owes a general duty of care to a neighbouring occupier in relation to a hazard occurring on his land, whether such hazard is . .
Cited – Pemberton v Bright and Another CA 1960
A culvert had been altered and extended in 1926 and the entrance left uncovered and unprotected.
Held: The interference with the flow of water created a potential nuisance in that ‘heavy rain was always a potential danger unless properly . .
Cited – Radstock Co-operative and Industrial Society v Norton-Radstock Urban District Council 1976
Cited – Goldman v Hargrave PC 13-Jun-1966
(Australia) In Western Australia, a red gum tree was struck by lightning and set on fire. The appellant had the tree cut down, but took no reasonable steps by spraying the fire with water to prevent the fire from spreading, believing that it would . .
Cited – Rex v Bell 1822
‘that which is not a nuisance at the time it is done, cannot become so by length of time’ . .
Cited – Glossop v Heston and Isleworth Local Board 1878
The local authority was held not liable for damage caused by an overflow of their sewage systems which had been adequate when installed but became inadequate over time. . .
Cited – Smeaton v Ilford Corporation ChD 1954
Overloading caused the corporation’s foul sewer to erupt through a manhole and discharge ‘deleterious and malodorous matter’ into Mr Smeaton’s garden.
Held: The authority were not liable for the connections with the sewer and discharge of . .
Cited – Great Central Railway v Hewlett HL 1916
A railway company had been empowered to erect in a highway certain gateposts and in a war-time blackout a taxi-driver had run into them. The company was found not liable for the accident.
Held: The accident was caused by the post which had . .
Cited – Moore v Lambeth Waterworks Co 1886
The defendants were found not liable when a fireplug lawfully fixed in a highway had become exposed as the road surface had worn. . .
Cited – Thompson v Brighton Corporation CA 1894
A manhole cover became exposed as the road surface eroded, causing injury.
Held: The Corporation were not liable. . .
Cited – Pride of Derby and Derbyshire Angling Association Ltd v British Celanese Ltd CA 1953
The plaintiff brought an action for nuisance against the local authority for having discharged insufficiently treated effluent into the river Derwent.
Held: The plaintiffs: ‘have a perfectly good cause of action for nuisance, if they can show . .
Cited – Hurst and Another v Hampshire County Council CA 19-Jun-1997
A Local Authority is liable for any damage to adjacent property caused by the roots of a tree growing on the verge of a public highway.
Held: Pre-adoption trees vest in the highway authority for all purposes. . .
Cited – Stovin v Wise, Norfolk County Council (Third Party) HL 24-Jul-1996
Statutory Duty Does Not Create Common Law Duty
The mere existence of statutory power to remedy a defect cannot of itself create a duty of care to do so. A highway authority need not have a duty of care to highway users because of its duty to maintain the highway. The two stage test ‘involves . .
Cited – Neath Rural District Council v Williams QBD 1951
A watercourse became silted by natural causes and the local authority served an abatement notice on the landowner, who failed to respond, and when prosecuted relied on a proviso which excluded from liability ‘any person other than the person by . .
Cited – Cambridge Water Company v Eastern Counties Leather Plc HL 9-Dec-1993
The plaintiffs sought damages and an injunction after the defendant company allowed chlorinated chemicals into the plaintiff’s borehole which made unfit the water the plaintiff itself supplied.
Held: The appeal was allowed. Liability under . .
Cited – Dear v Thames Water and Others 1992
Cited – Job Edwards Ltd v Birmingham Navigations Proprietors CA 1924
Land next to the canal was used for the deposit of refuse by trespassers. The mound spread until, for a fee, it was dumped also across the canal. It caught fire, and the fire spread toward the canal. By agreement the parties got together to put out . .
Cited – Stannard (T/A Wyvern Tyres) v Gore CA 4-Oct-2012
The defendant, now appellant, ran a business involving the storage of tyres. The claimant neighbour’s own business next door was severely damaged in a fire of the tyres escaping onto his property. The court had found him liable in strict liability . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 19 May 2022; Ref: scu.78788