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03 October 2012
When purchasing a home or office space, it’s vital to check the area for activity that could cause a nuisance to avoid any nasty surprises once you’ve moved in, says commercial property and planning law specialist Andrew Gough.
Under current law, being granted planning permission does not grant immunity from someone taking action for nuisance, says Andrew, a partner at leading south east law firm Furley Page.
“For example, if I have permission to do something but I undertake that activity in such a way that I prevent my neighbour from reasonably enjoying his property then he may have a case for taking an action for nuisance.
“Over time however, local authority planning policies may change the nature of a surrounding area, preventing people in general from making claims for public nuisance.
“Designation of areas for industry or retail may have a considerable effect on the local environment. None the less, if the due planning process is followed, the area may be permitted to change and residents may eventually lose their right to complain,” adds Andrew.
But what is the position if there is an individual planning consent permitting a certain activity? Could a neighbour make a complaint after moving into an area simply because they were unaware of the activity and the potential nuisance?
That’s exactly what happened to Mrs Lawrence, who bought a property without realising there was a stadium nearby that had been used for motor sports and races for more than 13 years.
Her peace and quiet was disturbed and she took an action for nuisance against the owner, Coventry (trading as RDC Promotions). The initial trial judge granted Mrs Lawrence an injunction preventing the noise nuisance but Coventry appealed and won.
The Court of Appeal held that the business was an established feature of the community and that the character of the community had now changed to include the noise and other loss of amenity (if any) that arose from a lawful business.
“When deciding whether the activity was a nuisance, you had to consider the existing noise threshold which was prevalent in the area,” explains Andrew.
“As the noise from the stadium existed and there had been no apparent increase in that noise then this had to be considered when deciding if noise from the motor sports would cause annoyance to a reasonable person.
“Mrs Lawrence’s experience illustrates why it’s so important to check the locality thoroughly when purchasing your dream home, or even office space,” adds Andrew.
“It’s easy to see a property through rose-tinted spectacles – or, as in Mrs Lawrence’s case, on a silent night – so make sure you visit more than once to find out what goes on in the area. You may have viewed the property on a quiet, halcyon Sunday afternoon so you can’t afford to rely on that sole visit.”
Andrew Gough is a partner in Furley Page’s Real Estate team, recognised by independent national guides Chambers UK and The Legal 500, and specialises in planning law and all aspects of commercial property law. For further information, call Andrew Gough on 01227 763939.