Supreme Court reviews nuisance law – Coventry v Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13

September 29, 2014

The Supreme Court has today unanimously allowed the appeal of Kate Lawrence and Ray Shields. The appeal raised a number of important points in connection with the law of private nuisance, regarding prescription, “coming to a nuisance”, the character of the locality and the relevance of planning permission. Stephen Hockman QC and William Upton appeared for the appellants in the Supreme Court, and Peter Harrison QC and William Upton appeared for them in the courts below.

The appellants had moved into Fenland, a residential property close to the Stadium and Track where the motorsport activities were being carried out, and issued proceedings in 2008 against the operators of the Stadium and the Track for an injunction restricting their activities, on the ground that they gave rise to a nuisance by noise. The High Court upheld the claim, which was then overruled by the Court of Appeal.

Lord Neuberger, with whom the rest of the court substantially agreed, gave the main judgment in the Supreme Court. The respondents’ activities at the Stadium and the Track did constitute a nuisance and, as they had failed to establish a prescriptive right to carry out these activities, the injunction granted by the judge is restored. However, it should be noted that although an injunction is the prima facie remedy in these type of cases, the Supreme Court has now opened up the possibility of damages being awarded in place of the injunction and has overruled the long-established case ofShelfer v City of London Electric Lighting Co.

The UKSC’s useful summary of the case is available here and the judgment is availablehere