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Case law: Court clarifies legal rights to stop noisy neighbour nuisance

People seeking to stop noise from neighbouring or nearby land, whether residential or commercial, will welcome clarification from the court on the legal issues affecting their ability to stop or limit the noise.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - May 2016

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

A homeowner lived near an aerodrome where helicopters were active. She claimed the noise they made was excessive and unreasonable, and amounted to 'nuisance' in law. She applied for an injunction to stop or limit the use of the aerodrome by helicopters.

The aerodrome said helicopters had been using the runway since the early 1960s and it had therefore acquired a legal right (an 'easement') by prescription for helicopters to make a noise. The court said that the aerodrome could only claim it had acquired a right to cause a noise nuisance by prescription if it could:

  • show the noise had been continuous for 20 years (starting from the date it first amounted to a nuisance);
  • establish the precise extent of the right, ie produce evidence supporting its claim to make the noise it said it was entitled to make now, given the levels of noise over the 20-year period.

The court found that the noise from the helicopters was an unreasonable nuisance and an unreasonable interference with the homeowner's use of her home and garden, and granted an injunction limiting helicopter noise to two specified days, at 15 minutes per day.

As to the claim to prescription rights, the court said that there had been protests about the noise over the years which the aerodrome had not dealt with. This meant there had not been continuous use for 20 years and there was, therefore, no easement. Also, the aerodrome had not provided evidence of the extent of the helicopter noise prior to 2014, even though helicopters in previous decades had been very different from modern helicopters. It had not therefore shown how much noise it was able to make now under the alleged right, given the extent of helicopter noise over the 20-year period.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendations

  • Someone claiming an easement by prescription must be able to show when the right began and the precise extent of the right.
  • If anyone has objected to their purported right they must have dealt with, or deal with the objections or the court will find no right by prescription as the right has not been exercised continuously.

Case ref: Lorna Grace Peires v Bickerton Aerodromes Ltd [2016] EWHC 560

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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