03 May 2012 #Dispute Resolution
In the recent case of Coventry (T/A RDC Promotions) & Others -v- Lawrence & Others  EWCA Civ 26, the Court of Appeal has overturned a High Court decision made in favour of a couple who complained about noise from a nearby speedway stadium and motocross track.
The case arose after the Claimants, Ms Lawrence and Mr Shields, purchased a residential property near Mildenhall, Suffolk in 2006. After initially complaining to their local council, Ms Lawrence and Mr Shields commenced proceedings in the High Court against the owners and operators of the stadium and track alleging that the noise emanating from them constituted a “nuisance”. A nuisance is an act which wrongfully disturbs or interferes with a person’s use or enjoyment of land.
At trial, the High Court agreed with the Claimants that the noise generated by the stadium and track did constitute a nuisance. It awarded damages to Ms Lawrence and Mr Shields of more than £20,000, and granted an injunction imposing certain restrictions on the operations of the track and stadium.
However, the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling. It held that existing planning permissions in relation to the stadium and track, some of which dated from the 1970s, meant that the noise of motorsports from the stadium and the track were “an established part of the character of the locality”.
It also noted that at the time the Claimants bought their property, various forms of motorsport had been taking place at the stadium and track for more than a decade. It described as “most surprising” the Claimants’ assertion that they were unaware of the motorsports which took place at the stadium and track when they bought the property, although the Court expressly stated it was making no finding of dishonesty against the Claimants.
The Court of Appeal further noted that its ruling would be “a disaster” for the Claimants, but stated that their predicament was “a consequence of their decision to purchase a house in an area where motor sports were an established activity.”
The case highlights that, whilst planning permissions appearing on the local authority’s register cannot themselves authorise a nuisance, such planning permissions may nevertheless have changed the character of a locality, so that activities which might constitute a nuisance in one area may not do so in another. As the Court of Appeal noted, “it is a matter of prudence, indeed basic common sense, to inspect that register before purchasing a property in a rural location”.