Coventry and Others v Lawrence and Another: SC 26 Feb 2014

C operated a motor racing circuit as tenant. The neighbour L objected that the noise emitted by the operations were a nuisance. C replied that the fact of his having planning consent meant that it was not a nuisance.
Held: The neighbour’s appeal succeeded. C, but not the freeholder were liable in nuisance. In the light of the relevant principles, practical considerations and judicial dicta, it is possible to obtain by prescription a right to commit what would otherwise be a nuisance by noise, or, to put it another way, to transmit sound waves over neighbouring land. However, time does not run for the purposes of prescription unless the activities of the owner (or occupier) of the putative dominant land can be objected to by the owner of the putative servient land.
The notion that an easement can only be acquired by prescription if the activity concerned is carried on ‘as of right’ for 20 years, ie nec vi, nec clam, nec precario, would seem to carry with it the assumption that it would not assist the putative dominant owner if the activity was carried on ‘of right’ for 20 years, as no question of force, stealth or permission could apply.
It is no defence for a defendant who is sued in nuisance to contend that the claimant came to the nuisance, although it may well be a defence, at least in some circumstances, for a defendant to contend that, as it is only because the claimant has changed the use of, or built on, her land that the defendant’s pre-existing activity is claimed to have become a nuisance, the claim should fail.
‘there appears to be an element of circularity in the notion that, when assessing the character of the locality, one has to ignore the defendant’s activities if, or to the extent that, they constitute a nuisance, given that the point one is ultimately seeking to decide is whether the defendant’s activities amount to a nuisance However, it seems to me that there should be no real problem in this connection In many cases, it is fairly clear whether or not a defendant’s activities constitute a nuisance once one has established the facts, and nice questions as to the precise identification of the locality or its character do not have to be addressed In those cases where the precise character of the locality is of importance, the point should not cause much difficulty either In this case, for example, the question for the judge was the extent to which the noise levels from the Stadium and the Track were or would be acceptable in what was a sparsely populated area, with a couple of small villages and a military airfield between a mile and two miles away, and he answered it by taking the noise levels at other well-established racing circuits elsewhere in the country.’
As to the relevance of the existence of a planning permission: ‘The grant of planning permission for a particular use is potentially relevant to a nuisance claim in two ways First, the grant, or terms and conditions, of a planning permission may permit the very noise (or other disturbance) which is alleged by the claimant to constitute a nuisance In such a case, the question is the extent, if any, to which the planning permission can be relied on as a defence to the nuisance claim Secondly, the grant, or terms and conditions, of a planning permission may permit the defendant’s property or another property in the locality to be used for a certain purpose, so that the question is how far that planning permission can be relied on by the defendant as changing the character of the locality.’ and ‘The grant of planning permission for a particular development does not mean that that development is lawful. All it means is that a bar to the use imposed by planning law, in the public interest, has been removed. Logically, it might be argued, the grant of planning permission for a particular activity in 1985 or 2002 should have no more bearing on a claim that that activity causes a nuisance than the fact that the same activity could have occurred in the 19th century without any permission would have had on a nuisance claim in those days . . the mere fact that the activity which is said to give rise to the nuisance has the benefit of a planning permission is normally of no assistance to the defendant in a claim brought by a neighbour who contends that the activity cause a nuisance to her land in the form of noise or other loss of amenity.’

Lord Neuberger, President, Lord Mance, Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption, Lord Carnwath
[2014] UKSC 13, [2014] 2 P andCR 2, [2014] 2 All ER 622, [2014] BLR 271, [2014] HLR 21, [2014] Env LR 25, [2014] 1 AC 822, 152 Con LR 1, [2014] 2 WLR 433, [2014] PTSR 384, UKSC 2012/0076
Bailii, Bailii Summary, SC Summary, SC
Planning Act 2008, Chancery Amendment Act 1858
England and Wales
Appeal fromCoventry (T/A RDC Promotions and Another v Lawrence and Others CA 27-Feb-2012
The appellants, owners of a motor sport racing circuit, appealed against a finding that their activities constituted a nuisance, given that they had planning permissions for the use.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The judge had erred in holding . .
CitedBamford v Turnley 2-Jul-1862
The defendant burned bricks on his land, causing a nuisance to his neighbours.
Held: It was no answer to an action for damages that he selected a proper place within his land for an activity which would interfere with a neighbour’s enjoyment . .
CitedSturges v Bridgman CA 1879
The character of the neighbourhood in which the plaintiff lives should, for the law of nuisance, include established features: ‘whether anything is a nuisance or not is a question to be determined, not merely by an abstract consideration of the . .
CitedCambridge 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 . .
CitedHunter and Others v Canary Wharf Ltd HL 25-Apr-1997
The claimant, in a representative action complained that the works involved in the erection of the Canary Wharf tower constituted a nuisance in that the works created substantial clouds of dust and the building blocked her TV signals, so as to limit . .
At first instanceLawrence and Another v Fen Tigers Ltd and Others QBD 4-Mar-2011
The claimants had complained that motor-cycle and other racing activities on neighbouring lands were a noise nuisance, but the court also considered that agents of the defendants had sought to intimidate the claimants into not pursuing their action. . .
CitedThe Lyttelton Times Company Limited v Warners Limited PC 31-Jul-1907
(New Zealand) Premises had been leased for use as a printing house, including printing plant and machinery, and the landlords occupied the upper floors for use as bedrooms for their hotel. The landlords then sought an injunction and damages in . .
CitedPwllbach Colliery Co v Woodman HL 1915
Whether an easement may be created by implication depends on the circumstances under which it is said to have been made. The law implies a grant of such easements as may be necessary to give effect to the common intention of the parties to a grant . .
CitedLewis, Regina (on The Application of) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and Another SC 3-Mar-2010
The claimants sought to have land belonging to the council registered as a village green to prevent it being developed. They said that it had for more than twenty years been used by the community for various sports. The council replied that it had . .
CitedBliss v Hall 17-Jan-1838
To an action of nuisance for carrying on the business of a tallow chandler, in a messuage adjoining the messuage of the Plaintiff, it is no plea that the Defendant was possessed of his messuage, and the business was carried on, before the Plaintiff . .
CitedMcAdams Homes Ltd v Robinson and Another CA 27-Feb-2004
The defendant blocked the line of a sewer. The claimant alleged that it had an easement and sought the cost of building the alternative pipe. The question to be answered was ‘Where an easement is granted by implication on the sale of a property, . .
CitedCarr v Foster 1842
The plaintiff claimed a profit a prendre saying had been acquired under s.1 of the 1832 Act, by use for 30 years, the applicable period in relation to a profit a prendre. The evidence was that the right in question, to pasture cattle on a common, . .
CitedSt Helen’s Smelting Co v Tipping HL 1865
The defendant built a factory, from which the escaping chemical fumes damaged local trees.
Held: The defendant was liable even though the smelting was an ordinary business carried on properly, and even though the district surrounding was . .
CitedCrump v Lambert CA 1867
Lord Romilly MR considered the acquisition of a right to commit a nuisance by prescription.
Held: An injunction was granted to restrain the issue of smoke and noise. He said: ‘It is true that, by lapse of time, if the owner of the adjoining . .
CitedLeeds v Shakerley 1599
In an action for diverting a water-course from one of three mills, on not guilty, the ven. Fac. shall be where the nuisance was done, sed aliter on a prescription; but a seisin of the mill at the time of the nuisance must be shewn. . .
CitedLondon, Brighton and South Coast Railway Co v Truman 1885
Lord Halsbury LC described the idea that it was a defence to nuisance to say that the plaintiff came to it as an ‘old notion . . long since exploded’ . .
CitedFleming v Hislop HL 1886
Lord Halsbury LC said that ‘whether the man went to the nuisance or the nuisance came to the man, the rights are the same’ . .
CitedRushmer v Polsue and Alfieri Limited CA 1906
The court considered the question of whether excess noise could constitute a nuisance.
Held: The court rejected the argument that a resident of a district specially devoted to a particular trade cannot complained of nuisance by noise caused by . .
CitedPolsue and Alfieri v Rushmer HL 1907
The House approved a decision that a person purchasing property in an industrial district may be unable to claim for noise nuisance. Lord Loreburn LC said that (i) whether an activity gives rise to a nuisance may depend on the character of the . .
CitedMiller v Jackson CA 6-Apr-1977
The activities of a long established cricket club had been found to be a legal nuisance, because of the number of cricket balls landing in the gardens of neighbouring houses. An injunction had been granted to local householders who complained of . .
CitedKennaway v Thompson CA 30-Apr-1980
The plaintiff’s property adjoined the defendant’s boating lake over which the defendant had, over several years, come to run more and more motor boat sports events. The trial judge had found that the noise created by the racing was an actionable . .
CitedAndreae v Selfridge and Co Ltd CA 1938
The plaintiff had a hotel. The rest of the island had been acquired by the defendant which was demolishing and rebuilding the other properties. The plaintiff complained, and the judge found, that by reason of the operations, which involved noise and . .
CitedGillingham Borough Council v Medway (Chatham) Dock Co Ltd 1992
The grant of planning permission does not of itself sanction or otherwise endorse an activity which is causing a nuisance to neighbouring properties. Buckley J said: ‘If a planning authority grants permission for a particular construction or use in . .
CitedWheeler and Another v JJ Saunders Ltd and Others CA 19-Dec-1994
The existence of a planning permission did not excuse the causing of a nuisance by the erection of a pighouse. The permission was not a statutory authority, and particularly so where it was possible it had been procured by the supply of inaccurate . .
CitedWatson and others v Croft Promo-Sport Ltd CA 26-Jan-2009
The claimants were neighbours of the Croft motor racing circuit. They alleged nuisance in the levels of noise emanating from the site. The defendants denied nuisance saying that the interference was deemed reasonable since they operated within the . .
CitedHirose Electrical UK Ltd v Peak Ingredients Ltd CA 11-Aug-2011
The claimant appealed against dismissal of its claim in nuisance. The parties occupied adjoining units on an industrial estate. The defendant’s business generated odour which, the wall between them being permeable, passed into the claimant’s office . .
ApprovedBarr and Others v Biffa Waste Services Ltd (No 3) TCC 19-Apr-2011
The claimants sought damages in nuisance saying that the defendant’s waster recycling plant was causing odorous pollution of their nearby homes. . .
CitedShelfer v City of London Electric Lighting Company, Meux’s Brewery Co v Same CA 1895
The plaintiff sought damages and an injunction for nuisance by noise and vibration which was causing structural injury to a public house.
Held: The court set out the rules for when a court should not grant an injunction for an infringement of . .
CitedColls v Home and Colonial Stores Ltd HL 2-May-1904
The courts below had concluded that the defendant had infringed the plaintiff’s right to light, and had awarded an injunction.
Held: the appeal succeeded. The House set out the requirements for establishing the existence of a right to light. . .
CitedKine v Jolly CA 1905
The court refused an injunction in respect of an infringement of the right to light to a dwelling house, restricting the plaintiff to a remedy in damages. Cozens-Hardy LJ: ‘I think it is impossible to doubt that the tendency of the speeches in the . .
CitedSlack v Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd CA 1924
Nothing in Colls served to undermine the ‘good working rule’ of A L Smith LJ in Shelfer, although they discharged a quia timet injunction and ordered an inquiry as to damages . .
CitedRegan v Paul Properties Ltd and others CA 26-Oct-2006
The court considered the appropriate remedy after a finding of infringement of a right to light, and in particular: ‘whether the proper remedy for infringement in this case is damages for nuisance, as ordered by the court below, or whether a . .
CitedFishenden v Higgs and Hill Ltd CA 1935
An injunction had been refused an injunction in respect of an infringement of an easement of light and awarded damages in lieu, even though the damages would be substantial because it had been shown that the plaintiff was plainly ‘only wanting . .
ApprovedJaggard v Sawyer and Another CA 18-Jul-1994
Recovery of damages after Refusal of Injunction
The plaintiff appealed against the award of damages instead of an injunction aftter the County court had found the defendant to have trespassed on his land by a new building making use of a private right of way.
Held: The appeal failed.
CitedCo-Operative Insurance Society Ltd v Argyll Stores (Holdings) Ltd CA 29-Dec-1995
A ‘keep open’ clause in a commercial lease can be enforced by an order specific performance but only in rare cases. It would normally be unreasonable.
Millett LJ said: ‘The competing arguments in the present case, and the difference in the . .
CitedCo-Operative Insurance Society Ltd v Argyll Stores HL 21-May-1997
The tenants of a unit on a large shopping centre found the business losing money, and closed it in contravention of a ‘keep open’ clause in the lease. They now appealed from a mandatory injunction requiring them to keep the store open.
Held: . .
CitedLewis, Regina (on The Application of) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and Another SC 3-Mar-2010
The claimants sought to have land belonging to the council registered as a village green to prevent it being developed. They said that it had for more than twenty years been used by the community for various sports. The council replied that it had . .
CitedMunro v Southern Dairies 18-Apr-1955
(Victoria) Nuisance – Horses kept on dairy premises without proper stabling – Interference with use and enjoyment of neighbouring premises – Loss of sleep by neighbouring occupier as a result thereof – Whether reasonable’ use of the premises or . .
CitedHalsey v Esso Petroleum Co Ltd 1961
A plaintiff who has standing to sue, including a member of the household of the landowner, should be entitled to recover in nuisance for damage to chattels.
Veale J started from the position of the ‘ordinary man’ in considering whether an . .
CitedBank of New Zealand v Greenwood 14-Dec-1983
High Court – New Zealand. The glass roof of a verandah which deflected the sun’s rays so that a dazzling glare was thrown on to neighbouring buildings was held, prima facie, to create a nuisance. Hardie Boys J said: ‘To the extent that this is an . .
CitedGillingham Borough Council v Medway (Chatham) Dock Co Ltd 1992
The grant of planning permission does not of itself sanction or otherwise endorse an activity which is causing a nuisance to neighbouring properties. Buckley J said: ‘If a planning authority grants permission for a particular construction or use in . .
CitedFarley v Skinner HL 11-Oct-2001
The claimant sought damages from the defendant surveyor. He had asked the defendant whether the house he was to buy was subject to aircraft noise. After re-assurance, he bought the house. The surveyor was wrong and negligent. A survey would not . .
CitedTransco plc v Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council HL 19-Nov-2003
Rylands does not apply to Statutory Works
The claimant laid a large gas main through an embankment. A large water supply pipe nearby broke, and very substantial volumes of water escaped, causing the embankment to slip, and the gas main to fracture.
Held: The rule in Rylands v Fletcher . .

Cited by:
Principal judgmentCoventry and Others v Lawrence and Another (No 2) SC 23-Jul-2014
Consequential judgment. Mr Coventry had been found liable in the principle judgment in nuisance to the appellant neighbours. The Court was now asked as to several matters arising. First, to what extent were the defendants’ landlords liable to the . .
Principal judgmentCoventry and Others v Lawrence and Another SC 22-Jul-2015
The appellants challenged the compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights of the system for recovery of costs in civil litigation in England and Wales following the passing of the Access to Justice Act 1999. The parties had been . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Nuisance, Planning

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.521989