Delaware Mansions Limited and others v Lord Mayor and Citizens of the City of Westminster: HL 25 Oct 2001

The landowner claimed damages for works necessary to remediate damage to his land after encroachment of tree roots onto his property.
Held: The issue had not been properly settled in English law. The problem was to be resolved by applying a standard of reasonableness as between neighbours. Damage consisting of impairment of the load-bearing qualities of residential land was itself a nuisance. If there is a continuing nuisance of which the defendant knew or ought to have known, reasonable remedial expenditure could be recovered. The judgments in Goldman and the Wagon Mound ‘are directed to what a reasonable person in the shoes of the defendant would have done. The label nuisance or negligence is treated as of no real significance. In this field, I think, the concern of the common law lies in working out the fair and just content and incidents of a neighbour’s duty rather than affixing a label and inferring the extent of the duty from it. Even in the field of Rylands v Fletcher (1868) LR 3HL 330 strict liability the House of Lords in [Cambridge Water] has stressed the principles of reasonable user and reasonable foreseeability: see the speech of Lord Goff of Chieveley, at pp 299-301. It was the absence of reasonable foreseeability of harm of the relevant type that excluded liability in that case’.
Lord Cooke of Thorndon said that in tree root cases, the question remains whether the Defendant has acted reasonably: ‘The label nuisance or negligence is treated as of no real significance. In this field, I think, the concern of the common law lies in working out the fair and just content and incidents of a neighbour’s duty rather than affixing a label and inferring the extent of the duty from it.’
Lord Steyn, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Cooke of Thorndon, Lord Clyde and Lord Hutton
Times 26-Oct-2001, Gazette 22-Nov-2001, [2002] 1 AC 321, [2001] UKHL 55, [2001] 4 All ER 737, 79 Con LR 39, [2001] 3 WLR 1007, [2002] TCLR 8, [2001] 44 EGCS 150, [2002] BLGR 1, [2002] BLR 25, [2001] NPC 151
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
CitedOverseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound) (No 2) PC 25-May-1966
(New South Wales) When considering the need to take steps to avoid injury, the court looked to the nature of defendant’s activity. There was no social value or cost saving in this defendant’s activity. ‘In the present case there was no justification . .
Appeal fromDelaware Mansions Limited, Flecksun Limited v The Lord Mayor and Citizens of The City of Westminster CA 21-Jul-1999
A number of blocks of mansion flats in Maida Vale were damaged by the root action of a plane tree for which the council were responsible. The freehold in the blocks, known as Delaware Mansions, was sold by the Church Commissioners to the second . .
CitedLeakey 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 . .
CitedRylands v Fletcher HL 1868
The defendant had constructed a reservoir to supply water to his mill. Water escaped into nearby disused mineshafts, and in turn flooded the plaintiff’s mine. The defendant appealed a finding that he was liable in damages.
Held: The defendant . .
CitedGoldman 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 . .
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 . .
CitedSolloway v Hampshire County Council CA 1981
Tree root damage had occurred following two successive very hot and dry summers in 1975 and 1976, in an area where the subsoil was almost all gravel but where, as it happened, under the plaintiff’s house there were pockets of clay. An issue arose as . .

Cited by:
CitedLoftus-Brigham and Another v London Borough of Ealing CA 28-Oct-2003
The claimants sought to recover for damages caused to their house foundations by trees growing nearby which were the responsibility of the defendants. The defendants replied that the damages was caused in part by roots from virgina creeper and . .
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 . .
CitedMarcic v Thames Water Utilities Limited HL 4-Dec-2003
The claimant’s house was regularly flooded by waters including also foul sewage from the respondent’s neighbouring premises. He sought damages and an injunction. The defendants sought to restrict the claimant to his statutory rights.
Held: The . .
CitedMoiz Ahmed Siddiqui, Ishrat Siddiqui/Bhajan Singh Sohanpal v Council of the London Borough of Hillingdon TCC 15-Apr-2003
The claimants sought damages for cracks in their house caused by the roots of trees on the defendant’s land.
Held: The claimants had failed to establish by evidence that the tree roots were the cause of the damage. The claim failed. . .
CitedKirk and others v London Borough of Brent CA 8-Dec-2005
The defendant council had obtained a strike out of the claimant’s assertion that they were responsible in nuisance for damages caused by tree roots.
Held: The claimant’s appeal against the striking out of his claim succeeded. While the simple . .
CitedPerrin and Another v Northampton Borough Council and others CA 19-Dec-2007
The land owners had sought permission to fell an oak tree subject to a tree preservation order in order to prevent further damage from its roots.
Held: The council’s appeal succeeded. The court was asked to decide whether any works to the tree . .
CitedBerent v Family Mosaic Housing and Others TCC 25-May-2011
The claimant sought damages for subsidence to her property allegedly caused by the roots of trees on the defendants’ properties. Two large plane trees stood in the pavement outside the house and about 12 metres from it. . .
CitedRobbins v London Borough of Bexley CA 17-Oct-2013
The claimant said that his house had been damaged by tree roots for which the appellant was responsible. The trees were 33 metres from the house.
Held: The appeal failed. The immediate cause of the damage was a failure to do something which . .
CitedNetwork Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams and Another CA 3-Jul-2018
Japanese Knotweed escape is nuisance
The defendant appealed against an order as to its liability in private nuisance for the escape of Japanese Knotweed from its land onto the land of the claimant neighbours. No physical damage to properties had yet been shown, but the reduction in . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 07 January 2021; Ref: scu.166700