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   Case summaries      Coventry v Lawrence

Coventry v Lawrence [2012] EWCA Civ 26  Court of Appeal

The claimants brought a nuisance action against the defendant in respect of the noise generated by motor sports conducted on their land. The motor sports included speedway racing, stock car racing banger racing and motorcross. Planning permission had been granted in 1975 for the construction of a speedway stadium and for the construction of a further motorcross stadium in 1992. The defendant held a certificate of lawful use under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The claimant purchased a house 864 meters from the track in 2006. The trial judge found for the claimants and awarded damages and an injunction. The defendants appealed contending:

 1) the judge had failed to properly take into account the effect of planning permission on changing the character of the locality

2). The claimants had come to the nuisance which had been operating for many years

3) the defendants had acquired a right by prescription to causes such nuisance.


Appeal allowed on the first ground. There was no need to consider the second and third grounds.

Jackson LJ:

“In the light of the authorities cited above, I would summarise the law which is relevant to the first ground of appeal in four propositions:

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.”

“In January 2006, when the claimants purchased Fenland, the position was this. For the last thirteen years various forms of motor sports had been taking place at the Stadium and the Track on numerous occasions throughout the year. These noisy activities, regarded by some as recreation and by others as an unwelcome disturbance, were an established feature, indeed a dominant feature, of the locality…The noise of motor sports emanating from the Track and the Stadium are an established part of the character of the locality. They cannot be left out of account when considering whether the matters of which the claimants complain constitute a nuisance.”
Back to lecture outline on nuisance in tort law