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Hunter v Canary Wharf [1998] 1 WLR 434   House of Lords

690 claims were made against Canary Wharf ltd. The claimants lived in the Isle of Dogs and complained that the erection of the Canary Wharf Tower interfered with their television reception. In addition, a second action against London Docklands Development Corporation involved 513 claims for damages in respect of excessive amounts of dust created during the construction of the tower. Some of the claimants were owners or tenants of properties, but many of the claimants had no proprietary interest in lane at all. Some were children living with parents, some were relations or lodgers with use of a room and some were spouses of the tenant or owner of the property. The two issues the House of Lords were required to consider were:

1.       Whether interference with television reception was capable of giving rise to an actionable nuisance

2.       Whether an interest in property was required to bring an action in

 

Held:

1.       There is no right of action in nuisance for interference with the television reception.

2.       An interest in property is required to bring an action in nuisance. Khorasanjian v Bush overruled in so far as it holds that a mere licensee can sue in private nuisance.

Lord Hoffman:

“In this case, however, the defendants say that the type of interference alleged, namely by the erection of a building between the plaintiffs' homes and the Crystal Palace transmitter, cannot as a matter of law constitute an actionable nuisance. This is not by virtue of anything peculiar to television. It applies equally to interference with the passage of light or air or radio signals or to the obstruction of a view. The general principle is that at common law anyone may build whatever he likes upon his land. If the effect is to interfere with the light, air or view of his neighbour, that is his misfortune. The owner's right to build can be restrained only by covenant or the acquisition (by grant or prescription) of an easement of light or air for the benefit of windows or apertures on adjoining land.”

In relation to planning permission:

"In a case such as this, where the development is likely to have an impact upon many people over a large area, the planning system is, I think, a far more appropriate form of control, from the point of view of both the developer and the public, than enlarging the right to bring actions for nuisance at common law. It enables the issues to be debated before an expert forum at a planning inquiry and gives the developer the advantage of certainty as to what he is entitled to build."

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