The Speed of Sound

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In a previous article we looked at the case of Lawrence –v- Fen Tigers Ltd & Others, concerning noise nuisance. The decision has recently been overturned by the Supreme Court in the appeal case of Coventry –v- Lawrence.

A claim for nuisance arises where there is a continuous, unlawful and indirect interference with a person’s enjoyment of land or his rights over it. In this case, the Defendants owned a sports complex comprising of a stadium used for speedway and stock car racing and a track used for motocross racing. The Claimants purchased land nearby and alleged that the use of the track and stadium generated noise amounting to a nuisance.

The Defendants had obtained a certificate of lawful use for the stadium meaning that the stock car racing was considered lawful. They had also obtained planning permission for the track, which included restrictions on days and times of use and levels of noise. The Claimants alleged that they had not been aware of the various forms of motor sport that took place at the sports complex and brought a claim in nuisance.

The Defendants denied that a nuisance existed and stated that they had taken steps to minimise any noise by erecting sound barriers. The High Court ruled that the activities had constituted a nuisance and granted an Injunction.

The Defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the High Court had failed to take into account the planning permissions which had been granted and the fact that the implementation of those permissions had changed the character of the locality. The Court of Appeal agreed and held that whilst a planning authority could not authorise the commission of a nuisance, the implementation of planning permission could change the character of the locality. Accordingly, the Defendants had not caused a nuisance.

The Supreme Court has now overturned that decision and reinstated the Injunction. The Court found that it is possible to obtain an easement to commit what would otherwise be a noise nuisance, albeit that in this case such a right had not been acquired. In order to establish a prescriptive right, it would be necessary for a party to demonstrate that it has generated noise amounting to nuisance for a minimum 20 year period prior to any objection being made by the neighbouring owner.

The Court confirmed that it is no defence to a claim in nuisance to argue that the Claimant commenced occupation of its property after the nuisance had begun (in other words, that the Claimant ‘came to the nuisance’) where the Claimant’s property was being used for substantially the same purpose as it had been by its previous owners. Such an argument may be more successful if for example a Claimant’s property had been modified in such a way that it was only after that modification that the activity became a nuisance.

Finally, the Court confirmed that a Defendant’s use of land can be taken into account when assessing the character of the locality, but only insofar as it is not a nuisance. It will not normally assist a Defendant to argue that they have planning permission to carry out the activity.

Luke Patel

Luke Patel

We at Blacks can advise and assist with the obtaining of Injunctions for a variety of issues, to include claims in nuisance.

Please contact Luke Patel
on 0113 227 9316
or by email at

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