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Gillingham Borough Council v Medway Dock [1993] QB 343

The defendant had obtained planning permission to turn a disused dockyard into a commercial port operating 24 hours a day. Local residents brought an action in public nuisance in relation to the noise created by Heavy Goods Vehicles throughout the night. They were seeking an injunction to restrain the activities during the night. It was held that where planning permission is given for a development or change of use, the question of nuisance will thereafter fall to be decided by reference to a neighbourhood with that development or use and not as it was previously. The claimant’s actions therefore failed.

Buckley J:

"Parliament has set up a statutory framework and delegated the task of balancing the interests of the community against those of individuals and of holding the scales between individuals, to the local planning authority. There is the right to object to any proposed grant, provision for appeals and inquiries, and ultimately the minister decides. There is the added safeguard of judicial review. If a planning authority grants permission for a particular construction or use in its area it is almost certain that some local inhabitants will be prejudiced in the quiet enjoyment of their properties. Can they defeat the scheme simply by bringing an action in nuisance? If not, why not? It has been said, no doubt correctly, that planning permission is not a licence to commit nuisance and that a planning authority has no jurisdiction to authorise nuisance. However, a planning authority can, through its development plans and decisions, alter the character of a neighbourhood. That may have the effect of rendering innocent activities which prior to the change would have been an actionable nuisance."

Back to lecture outline on nuisance in tort law