Manchester Corporation v Farnworth: HL 1930

The House was asked as to the result in law when a nuisance is the inevitable result of carrying out the functions authorised by Parliament.
Held: Viscount Dunedin said: ‘When Parliament has authorized a certain thing to be made or done in a certain place, there can be no action for nuisance caused by the making or doing of that thing if the nuisance is the inevitable result of the making or doing so authorized. The onus of proving that the result is inevitable is on those who wish to escape liability for nuisance, but the criterion of inevitability is not what is theoretically possible but what is possible according to the state of scientific knowledge at the time, having also in view a certain common sense appreciation, which cannot be rigidly defined, of practical feasibility in view of situation and of expense.’
Viscount Sumner said: ‘the first question is ‘What did the Legislature authorize?’ The sections can be read as directing the use of such a plant as was originally erected or even as relieving the Corporation from liability for nuisance on proof that all due care has been used. The case becomes one of quite a simple proof. I think the condition of freedom from liability is proof of due care but not that any particular plant or user can be implied from the general terms employed. The appellants are right in saying that the Manchester Corporation Act, 1914, is not a ‘special Act’ within s. 1 of the Electric Lighting Clauses Act of 1899, but in effect varies or excepts the operation of the scheduled clauses of that Act. What is required of them is to use all due and reasonable means and precautions to avoid a nuisance. The burden of proving that they have done so is on them.’
Viscount Dunedin, Viscount Sumner
[1930] AC 171
Manchester Corporation Act, 1914
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedThe Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd and Another v United Utilities Water Plc SC 2-Jul-2014
The court was asked: ‘whether a sewerage undertaker under the Water Industry Act 1991 has a statutory right to discharge surface water and treated effluent into private watercourses such as the Respondents’ canals without the consent of their . .

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Updated: 26 January 2021; Ref: scu.551304