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Coventry v Lawrence [2014]

Facts

  • The defendant, under planning permission, built and utilised a racing track and motocross (off road motorbiking) facilities starting in 1975
  • The claimants moved to a house nearby in 2006
  • The defendant carried out noise reduction works in 2006
  • The claimants claim that the racing track is a nuisance

Issue

  • Did the racing facilities constitute a nuisance?

Decision

  • No, claim failed

Reasoning

  • 20 years’ prescription defence ineffective as only 16 years; ok to have gaps, but 20 years not made
  • Coming to a nuisance is no defence, however, where a claimant changes the use of his land after the nuisance started, the defence may be allowed (sympathetic to Lord Denning’s dissent in Miller v Jackson [1977]
  • Planning permission will not assist a defendant in the defence of a nuisance claimant, except where conditions are stipulated, which may then be relevant (it is not for planning agencies to decide what is a nuisance)
  • Where there is a nuisance, a claimant is entitled to an injunction unless the court has reasons to award damages instead
  • In deciding whether to award damages in lieu of an injunction, the court is to consider the four tests set out by Lord Smith’s judgment in Shelfer v City of London Electric Lighting Co [1895] (below). The court may then use its discretion to award damages. Public interest and planning permission should also be considered in the decision.
    • Is the injury to the claimant’s rights small?
    • Can the injury be estimated in money?
    • Can the injury be compensated by a small money payment?
    • Would it be oppressive to grant an injunction?
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