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Page Motors v Epsom Borough Council [1982] LGR 337 Court of Appeal

The claimant ran a car sales business. There was open land adjacent to their business premises, which was owned by the defendant Council. Gypsies moved onto the land and caused nuisance to the claimant in various forms including the burning of rubber, failure to control dogs, obstructing access and damaging the fences.

Held:

The council were liable as they had an immediate right of possession of the land. The council had adopted and continued the nuisance as their motive for not enforcing a possession order was the possibility of the gypsies moving to another site within the borough.

Ackner LJ:

"It is of course common ground that the council owned the land upon which the gypsies created the nuisance. They had an immediate right to possession of that land and were in a position in law, and indeed in fact to control the property. The responsibility, if any, which attaches to them in these circumstances is by virtue of their being the occupiers of that land. ..In my judgment the judge was wholly correct in concluding that the council adopted and continued the nuisance constituted by the activities of the gypsies on the Nonsuch Estate. He stated that a ┬┤primary motive' for not enforcing the possession order was the possibility that the gypsies might have moved to another site within the borough. That was making use of the gypsy encampment on the Nonsuch Estate, even though the motive may merely have been to buy time to enable a solution to be found. He rejected, rightly in my judgment, the submission of Mr. Schiemann, for the council, that a defendant cannot be held to have ┬┤adopted' a nuisance unless there is proved a positive desire on his part to use for his own benefit that which is causing a nuisance to the plaintiff. He concluded that by not taking steps to remove the gypsies from the Nonsuch Estate the council were enabled to contain the borough council's gypsy problem during the five-year period described above and which elapsed before the solution was found. That they were allowing the site to be used as an unsupervised caravan site pending a decision as to the removal of the gypsies is clear from the evidence of Mr. Schofield, the only officer of the council to give evidence. He confirmed that a water supply was made available to the gypsies by the provision of a standpipe, and skips were put on the site, presumably at convenient points, for the disposal of their refuse. Moreover so far as sewage disposal was concerned, there were disposal points for the contents of elsans and these were dealt with from time to time by the council."
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