Noise Nuisance from Motor Sports
22 March 2011
Lawrence and Shields v. Fen Tigers Ltd and Others  EWHC 360 (QB)
In March 2011 the High Court found in favour of two Suffolk residents claiming that the operators of a stadium and track used for speedway racing and banger racing created a noise nuisance. The Court granted an injunction against the operators limiting the noise that could be emitted from the racing venues and awarded damages for the historic impact. The case is the latest in a line of successful actions against motor sport operators (see our recent commentary on Watson v. Croft Promo-Sport) and this case is of particular interest for three reasons.
First, the Claimants claimed against the landlord as well as the tenants but His Honour Judge Richard Seymour QC held that a landlord cannot be liable in nuisance for acts of his tenant where premises, which are not themselves a nuisance, are let for a purpose which can be achieved without a nuisance, but the tenant chooses so to use a demised premises as to create a nuisance. The claim against the landlord was therefore dismissed.
Secondly, the operators of the stadium argued that, because the activities had been going on for over 20 years, they had acquired a prescriptive right to emit the noise. The Court dismissed this line of argument, holding that the law does not recognise an easement of noise and as such it was not possible to obtain one by prescription.
Thirdly, the Claimants claimed aggravated and exemplary damages for the Defendants' conduct which the Claimants said amounted to a campaign of harassment. The Court was not convinced on the evidence and refused to award aggravated and exemplary damages. The case demonstrates the high hurdle that needs to be overcome to succeed in a claim for aggravated and exemplary damages and it suggests that such remedies will remain relatively unusual in nuisance claims.
Businesses whose operations generate noise need to be aware that neighbouring businesses and local residents are increasingly looking towards the Courts to protect them from what they perceive to be excessively noisy activities in their neighbourhoods and, if successful, the injunctions awarded by the Courts can severely curtail the activities of the business and may shut down the business altogether. Landowners and businesses who receive complaints should engage with the complainant and take steps at an early stage to address their concerns to avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation.
Michael Barlow and Simon Tilling have considerable experience acting in noise disputes and Simon has recently lectured on the legal regime for the control of noise to the Institute of Licensing and the Environmental Law Foundation. For more information on our capabilities please contact Michael Barlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or Simon Tilling at email@example.com.