Hunter 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 her enjoyment of her land.
Held: The interference with TV reception by an adjoining development is not capable of being nuisance to land in law. An action in private nuisance will only lie at the suit of a person who has a right to the land affected. When assessing damages for nuisance, loss of amenity was an appropriate measure where no capital loss was established and loss of use was an additional head. Nuisance is a tort directed at protection of interests in land only.
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘The general principle is that at common law anyone may build whatever he likes upon his land. If the effect is to interfere with the light, air or view of his neighbour, that is his misfortune. The owner’s right to build can be restrained only by covenant or the acquisition (by grant or prescription) of an easement of light or air for the benefit of windows or apertures on adjoining land . . In the absence of agreement, therefore, the English common law allows the rights of a landlord to build as he pleases to be restricted only in carefully limited cases and then only after the period of prescription has elapsed’. And ‘In the case of nuisances ‘productive of sensible personal discomfort’ the action is not for causing discomfort to the person, but as in the case of the first category, for causing injury to the land. True it is that the land has not suffered ‘sensible’ injury, but its utility has been diminished by the existence of the nuisance. It is for the unlawful threat to the utility of his land that the possessor and occupier is entitled to an injunction and it is for the diminution in such utility that he is entitled to compensation.’
Lord Goff said: ‘As a general rule, a man is entitled to build on his own land, though nowadays this right is inevitably subject to our system of planning controls. Moreover, as a general rule, a man’s right to build on his land is not restricted by the fact that the presence of the building may of itself interfere with his neighbour’s enjoyment of his land . . [H]is neighbour generally cannot complain of the presence of the building, though this may seriously detract from the enjoyment of his land.’
Lord Lloyd of Berwick said: ‘Private nuisances are of three kinds. They are (1) nuisance by encroachment on a neighbour’s land; (2) nuisance by direct physical injury to a neighbour’s land; and (3) nuisance by interference with a neighbour’s quiet enjoyment of his land’.
Lord Hope of Craighead said that only certain kinds of rights over the use of land by others are known to law: ‘The presumption also affects the kinds of easement which the law will recognise. When the easements are negative in character – where they restrain the owners’ freedom in the occupation and use of his property – they belong to certain well known categories. As they represent an anomaly in the law because they restrict the owners’ freedom, the law takes care not to extend them beyond the categories which are well known to the law. It is one thing if what one is concerned with is a restriction which has been constituted by express grant or by agreement. Some elasticity in the recognised categories may be permitted in such a case, as the owner has agreed to restrict his own freedom. But it is another matter if what is being suggested is the acquisition of an easement by prescription. Where the easement is of a purely negative character, requiring no action to be taken by the other proprietor and effecting no change on the owner’s property which might reveal its existence, it is important to keep to the recognised categories. A very strong case would require to be made out if they were to be extended. I do not think that that has been demonstrated in the present case.’

Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Cooke of Thorndon, Lord Hope of Craighead
Gazette 14-May-1997, Times 25-Apr-1997, [1997] UKHL 14, [1997] AC 655, [1997] Fam Law 601, [1997] 2 All ER 426, [1997] 2 FLR 342, [1997] 2 WLR 684, [1997] Env LR 488, [1997] 54 Con LR 12, [1997] 84 BLR 1, [1997] CLC 1045, (1998) 30 HLR 409
England and Wales
Appeal fromHunter and Others v Canary Wharf Ltd; Same v London Docklands Development Board CA 13-Oct-1995
A release of dust over neighbouring properties can be a nuisance but not a blocking of TV reception signals. No action lay in private nuisance for interference with television caused by the mere presence of a building. ‘A substantial link between . .
CitedBridlington Relay Ltd v Yorkshire Electricity Board ChD 1965
The case concerned electrical interference with TV signals caused by the activities of the defendant Electricity Board.
Held: Such interference did not constitute a legal nuisance, because it was interference with a purely recreational . .
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 . .
CitedBland v Moseley 1587
The court distinguished the elements of an easement of light and an easement of air. In the absence of an easement, a building may be erected so as to restrict the flow of air onto his neighbour’s land. . .
CitedAldred’s Case 1619
An action would lie where a pig-stye was erected so close to the plaintiff’s house as to corrupt the air in the house, and also and similarly for a lime-kiln with smoke, or where filth from a dye house runs into a fish pond. Where the plaintiff . .
CitedAttorney-General v Doughty 1752
As to any right of prospect, a building erected so as to spoil a view cannot at common law be a nuisance for that reason.
Lord Hardwicke LC said: ‘I know no general rule of common law, which warrants that, or says, that building so as to stop . .
CitedChastey v Ackland CA 1895
The two properties were in a terrace backing onto an area popularly used as a urinal. The defendant raised his wall by sixteen feet causing a stagnation of the air in the yard, making the other houses less healthy. The court at first instance . .
CitedThompson-Schwab v Costaki CA 1956
The sight of prostitutes entering and leaving the defendant’s premises was so offensive as to be actionable in nuisance by a neighbouring owner. . .
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 . .
CitedDalton v Henry Angus and Co HL 14-Jun-1881
The court explained the doctrine of lost modern grant. Where there has been more than 20 years’ uninterrupted enjoyment of an easement, and that enjoyment has the necessary qualities to fulfil the requirements of prescription, then unless, for some . .
CitedSedleigh-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 . .
CitedTate and Lyle Industries Ltd v Greater London Council HL 24-Mar-1983
The plaintiff had constructed and used two jetties, and dredged a channel down to the Thames for their use. The Council constructed two terminals nearby, the result of which was to cause a build up of silt blocking the channel.
Held: The . .
CitedRead v J Lyons and Co Ltd HL 1946
The plaintiff was employed by the Ministry of Defence, inspecting a weapons factory. A shell exploded injuring her. No negligence was alleged. The company worked as agent for the ministry.
Held: The respondents were not liable, since there had . .
CitedFoster v Warblington Urban District Council CA 1906
A nuisance was caused by the discharge of sewage by the defendant council into oyster beds. The plaintiff was an oyster merchant who had for many years been in occupation of the oyster beds which had been artificially constructed on the foreshore, . .
CitedNewcastle-under-Lyme Corporation v Wolstanton Ltd 1947
The tort of nuisance is directed against the plaintiff’s enjoyment of his rights over land, and an action of private nuisance will usually be brought by the person in actual possession of the land affected, either as the freeholder or tenant of the . .
CitedMalone v Laskey CA 1907
A company’s manager resided in a house as its licensee. His wife was injured when a bracket fell from a wall in the house. She claimed damages from the defendants in nuisance and negligence. The claim in nuisance alleged that the fall of the bracket . .
CitedPaxhaven Holdings Ltd v Attorney-General 1974
(New Zealand) The court considered what interest in land was required to found an action in private nuisance: ‘In my opinion, however, the matter is clear in principle. In an action for nuisance the defence of jus tertii is excluded, and it is no . .
MentionedCunard v Antifyre Ltd 1933
Talbot J defined private nuisance as an interference by owners or occupiers of property with the use or enjoyment of neighbouring property. . .
OverruledKhorasandjian v Bush CA 16-Feb-1993
The plaintiff was an eighteen year old girl who had had a friendship with the defendant, aged 28. The friendship broke down and the plaintiff said she would have no more to do with him, but the defendant did not accept this. There were many . .
DoubtedMotherwell v Motherwell 1976
(Appellate Division of the Alberta Supreme Court) The court recognised that not only the legal owner of property could obtain an injunction, on the ground of private nuisance, to restrain persistent harassment by unwanted telephone calls to his . .
CitedRuxley Electronics and Construction Ltd v Forsyth HL 29-Jun-1995
Damages on Construction not as Agreed
The appellant had contracted to build a swimming pool for the respondent, but, after agreeing to alter the specification to construct it to a certain depth, in fact built it to the original lesser depth, Damages had been awarded to the house owner . .
CitedAsher v Whitlock CEC 3-Nov-1865
Possession of land is in itself a good title against anyone who cannot show a prior and therefore better right to possession. A possession which is wrongful against the true owner can found an action for trespass or nuisance against someone else. A . .
CitedAllan v The Overseers of Liverpool 1874
The plaintiff (or joint plaintiffs) must be enjoying or asserting exclusive possession of the land to assert a claim in nuisance. . .
CitedRust v Victoria Graving Dock Co and London and St Katharine Dock Co 1887
Damages in nuisance are not to be increased by any subdivision of interests. . .
CitedRuxley Electronics and Construction Ltd v Forsyth CA 7-Jan-1994
In 1986, the defendant, wanted a swimming pool adjoining his house. He contracted with the plaintiffs. The contract price for the pool, with certain extras, was 17,797.40 pounds including VAT. The depth of the pool was to be 6 ft 6 in at the deep . .
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 . .
CitedBone v Seale CA 1975
The plaintiffs were the owners and occupiers of two adjoining properties. They claimed damages for nuisance by smell. The judge awarded over 6,000 pounds to each of the plaintiffs. The Court of Appeal reduced the sum to 1,000 pounds.
Held: the . .
CitedBillings (AC) and Sons Ltd v Riden HL 1957
A building contractor may assume a duty of care to a visitor, though the contractor was not viewed as the occupier, the occupier being separately liable to the injured plaintiff. However, ‘if the Plaintiff knew the danger, either because he was . .
DoubtedMetropolitan Properties v Jones 1939
The defendant had been tenant of one of the plaintiffs’ flats but had assigned his lease. The assignee disappeared and the tenant, who as original lessee remained liable for the rent, went back into possession. In response to an action for rent, he . .
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 . .
CitedWilkinson v Downton 8-May-1997
Thomas Wilkinson, the landlord of a public house, went off by train, leaving his wife Lavinia behind the bar. A customer of the pub, Downton played a practical joke on her. He told her, falsely, that her husband had been involved in an accident and . .
CitedJanvier v Sweeney 1919
During the First World War Mlle Janvier lived as a paid companion in a house in Mayfair and corresponded with her German lover who was interned as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man. Sweeney was a private detective who wanted secretly to obtain some . .
CitedBury v Pope 1587
The owner of land was held entitled to erect a house against his neighbour’s windows even though they had enjoyed light for over 30 years. ‘And lastly, the earth hath in law a great extent upwards, not only of water as hath been said, but of aire, . .
CitedLopez Ostra v Spain ECHR 9-Dec-1994
A waste treatment plant was built close to the applicant’s home in an urban location and the plant released fumes and smells which caused health problems to local residents.
Held: A duty exists to take reasonable and appropriate measures to . .
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 . .
CitedWebb v Bird 1861
The use of prescription for the acquisition of an an easement of light is anomalous. The owner of the land over which the easement is claimed can do nothing to prevent the installation of windows in a neighbour’s house. . .
CitedStreet v Mountford HL 6-Mar-1985
When a licence is really a tenancy
The document signed by the occupier stated that she understood that she had been given a licence, and that she understood that she had not been granted a tenancy protected under the Rent Acts. Exclusive occupation was in fact granted.
Held: . .
CitedBryant v Lefever 1879
A right of uninterrupted but undefined flow of air to a chimney is not capable of becoming an easement acquired by prescription. . .
CitedPaterson v Gas Light and Coke Co. 1896
. .
CitedArrondelle v United Kingdom ECHR 1982
Article 8 of the Convention is aimed, in part, at protecting the home and are construed to give protection against nuisances including aircraft noise. . .
CitedMidwood v Manchester Corporation 1905
A plaintiff with standing to sue should be entitled to recover in nuisance for damage to chattels. . .
CitedMoss v Christchurch Rural District Council 1925
Damage caused to a house may result in an award of the diminution of the value of the house only. . .
CitedRegina v Tao 1977
. .
CitedJacobs v London County Council HL 1950
The House considered the operation of the doctrine of precedent: ‘there is in my opinion no justification for regarding as obiter dictum a reason given by a judge for his decision because he has given another reason also. If it were a proper test to . .
CitedBritish Celanese Ltd v A H Hunt (Capacitors) Ltd QBD 1969
Metal foil had been blown from the defendant’s factory premises on to an electricity sub-station, which in turn brought the plaintiff’s machines to a halt.
Held: The meaning Lawton J would give to the phrase ‘direct victim’ was a person whose . .
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 . .
CitedChristie v Davey 1893
A music teacher gave lessons at home and from time to time held noisy parties. He complained of nuisance when his neighbour retaliated by blowing whistles, banging trays and trying to disturb the music.
Held: The defendant’s actions were . .
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 . .
CitedHarvie v Robertson 1903
The pursuer sought an interdict against the defender from carrying on the operation of lime-burning on his land: ‘the question whether a proprietor complaining of such injury has a title and interest to interfere does not depend exclusively upon . .
CitedGillingham Borough Council v Medway (Chatham) Dock Co Ltd CA 1992
Neighbours complained at the development of a new commercial port on the site of a disused naval dockyard. Heavy vehicle traffic at night had a seriously deleterious effect on the comfort of local residents.
Held: Although a planning consent . .
CitedNewcastle-under-Lyme Corporation v Wolstanton Ltd 1947
The tort of nuisance is directed against the plaintiff’s enjoyment of his rights over land, and an action of private nuisance will usually be brought by the person in actual possession of the land affected, either as the freeholder or tenant of the . .
CitedHollywood Silver Fox Farm v Emmett 1936
The plaintiffs farmed silver foxes for their fur. During the breeding season, they were nervous, but the neighbour defendant farmer deliberately encouraged his son to fire guns near the pens in order to disturb the breeding and cause economic loss. . .
At first InstanceHunter and Others v Canary Wharf Ltd QBD 20-Dec-1994
The plaintiff made two claims arising from the construction works involvd in the Canary Wharf development. First that the building now prevented her TV signal reception, and second that the works had released substantial volumes of dust so as to . .

Cited by:
CitedJan De Nul (Uk) Limited v NV Royale Belge CA 10-Oct-2001
The contractor undertook to dredge a stretch of river. Due to its failure to investigate properly, the result was the release of substantial volumes of silt into the estuary, to the damage of other river users and frontagers. The act amounted to a . .
CitedDennis and Dennis v Ministry of Defence QBD 16-Apr-2003
The applicants owned a substantial property near an airbase. They complained that changes in the patterns of flying by the respondents were a nuisance and sought damages. Walcot Hall was subjected to very high noise levels from military aircraft. . .
CitedWainwright and another v Home Office HL 16-Oct-2003
The claimant and her son sought to visit her other son in Leeds Prison. He was suspected of involvement in drugs, and therefore she was subjected to strip searches. There was no statutory support for the search. The son’s penis had been touched . .
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 . .
CitedRegina v Rimmington; Regina v Goldstein HL 21-Jul-2005
Common Law – Public Nuisance – Extent
The House considered the elements of the common law offence of public nuisance. One defendant faced accusations of having sent racially offensive materials to individuals. The second was accused of sending an envelope including salt to a friend as a . .
CitedWatkins v Home Office and others HL 29-Mar-2006
The claimant complained of misfeasance in public office by the prisons for having opened and read protected correspondence whilst he was in prison. The respondent argued that he had suffered no loss. The judge had found that bad faith was . .
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others; similar HL 2-May-2007
In Douglas, the claimants said that the defendants had interfered with their contract to provide exclusive photographs of their wedding to a competing magazine, by arranging for a third party to infiltrate and take and sell unauthorised photographs. . .
CitedCorby Group v Corby Borough Council CA 8-May-2008
The claimants sought damages alleging that land owned by the defendant was so contaminated as to have caused their children to be born with deformities. The authority appealed against refusal of the court to strike out the claim in response to their . .
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 . .
CitedDobson and others v Thames Water Utilities Ltd and Another CA 29-Jan-2009
The claimants complained of odours and mosquitoes affecting their properties from the activities of the defendants in the conduct of their adjoining Sewage Treatment plant. The issue was as to the rights of non title holders to damages in nuisance . .
CitedDennis and Another v Davies (B20 (Ch)) ChD 21-Nov-2008
The claimants sought to enforce a restrictive covenant to restrain a neighbour building an extension.
Held: A building could be a source of annoyance and therefore a breach of the particular covenant. The requirement for the builder’s . .
CitedDavies v Dennis and Others CA 22-Oct-2009
The land owner appealed against an injunction given to prevent him carrying out building works which the neighbours said would breach a restrictive covenant. The covenants negatived a building scheme.
Held: The appeal failed. Covenants of the . .
CitedArscott and others v Coal Authority and Another CA 13-Jul-2004
The defendant had deposited coal wastes. When the river Taff flooded, the spoil heaps diverted the floods to damage the claimants’ homes. They appealed refusal of their claims in nuisance. The judge applied the common enemy rule: ‘an owner or . .
CitedLawrence 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. . .
CitedThornhill and Others v Nationwide Metal Recycling Ltd and Another CA 29-Jul-2011
The appellants challenged a decision that the defendants had ceased to be committing an actionable nuisance after erecting a sound barrier between their metal scrap yard and the claimants’ properties.
Held: The judge had correcly applied the . .
CitedCoventry 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 . .
CitedOPO v MLA and Another CA 9-Oct-2014
The claimant child sought to prevent publication by his father of an autobiography which, he said, would be likely to cause him psychological harm. The father was well known classical musician who said that he had himself suffered sexual abuse as a . .
CitedRegency Villas Title Ltd and Others v Diamond Resorts (Europe) Ltd and Another ChD 7-Dec-2015
Claim by time share owners for easements over neighbouring land. The easements were for various sporting rights and facilities.
Held: The Claimants were entitled to appropriate declaratory relief confirming that they have the rights they claim . .
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 . .

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Torts – Other, Land, Nuisance, Damages

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.81542