Nuisance: the grant of planning consent can change the character of an area

In Lawrence v Coventry (t/a RDC Promotions) ([2012] 1 EGLR 165, CA (Eng)) (later overturned by the Supreme Court) C used former farmland near a village for speedway and similar types of racing. The land used as the stadium had planning consent for the various types of races held there. L was a resident in the village who brought an action in nuisance because of the noise caused by racing and ancillary activities at the stadium. The claim failed in the English Court of Appeal. The planning consents had altered the character of the neighbourhood and this changed character had to be borne in mind when considering a claim in nuisance.

Jackson LJ said the following about the relevance of the planning consent:

‘i) A planning authority by the grant of planning permission cannot authorise the commission of a nuisance.

ii) Nevertheless the grant of planning permission followed by the implementation of such permission may change the character of a locality.

iii) It is a question of fact in every case whether the grant of planning permission followed by steps to implement such permission do have the effect of changing the character of the locality.

iv) If the character of a locality is changed as a consequence of planning permission having been granted and implemented, then:

a) the question whether particular activities in that locality constitute a nuisance must be decided against the background of its changed character;

b) one consequence may be that otherwise offensive activities in that locality cease to constitute a nuisance.’ ([65])

Lewison LJ suggested, obiter, that it may be possible to have an easement to transmit sound waves and to acquire such an easement by prescription. ([91])

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