Coventry v. Lawrence

Financial Liability
Land Use

Coventry v. Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13
United Kingdom Supreme Court

Landowner living near a motocross stadium filed a nuisance action against the stadium owners complaining of excessive noise and dust.  The stadium was constructed in 1975 under a planning permission granted for racing and associated facilities.”  In 2006, the landowner became concerned about noise emanating from the stadium and filed a complaint with the local council.  The council issued noise abatement notices and, eventually, the High Court issued an injunction barring activities that produced noise above specific levels.  The Court of Appeals overturned this decision.  During the proceedings, the landowner’s house caught fire and was destroyed. 

The Supreme Court considered and clarified several key questions related to nuisance law, including:

1. the extent to which a defendant can argue that he has established a prescriptive right to commit a noise nuisance;

2. the extent to which a defendant to a nuisance claim can rely on the fact that the claimant “came to the nuisance;”

3. the extent to which it is open to a defendant to a nuisance claim to invoke the actual use of his premises when assessing the character of the locality;

4. the extent to which the grant of planning permission can be taken into account when considering the character of the locality; and

5. the approach to be adopted by a court when deciding whether to grant an injunction or whether to award damages instead.  Para. 6.

Reviewing and discussing the factors above in detail, the Supreme Court declared that the stadium owner’s activities constitute a nuisance and he has failed to establish a prescriptive right to carry out these activities. The injunction (limiting noise) granted by the lower court was restored, although stayed until the landowner’s house is rebuilt.

A press summary of the case is available at this link: