Noisy neighbours—the court’s approach to injunctive relief

Noisy neighbours—the court’s approach to injunctive relief
Many understand the torment of a noisy neighbour and the difficulty of getting the noise to stop. To resolve the issue, the sufferer may try to speak with their neighbour, engage in mediation, complain to the local council with a view to getting a noise abatement order, or bring a costly civil claim in the courts for nuisance. Such an action may result in a monetary award in damages or an injunction which prevents or regulates the noise. Kate Andrews, partner at Hamlins LLP, considers the decision in Peires.
Peires v Bickerton’s Aerodromes Ltd [2016] EWHC 560 (Ch), [2016] All ER (D) 160 (Mar)The Chancery Division allowed the claimant’s claim in nuisance, where helicopter training activities taking place on the defendant's aerodrome had caused unreasonable and excessive noise at the claimant's property. The appropriate remedy was an injunction that would sanction the activity but limit it to a reasonable level.
What was the court’s approach to noise nuisance in Peires?

The 2014 decision in the Supreme Court case of Fen Tigers (Coventry v Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13,[2014] All ER (D) 245 (Feb)) set the course for damages to be more readily awarded in lieu of an injunction. However, on 17 March 2016, judgment was handed down in Peires which shows achieving an injunction may not be impossible against a noisy neighbour.

In Peires, the claimant’s home was located next to an aerodrome. Noise from a particular helicopter manoeuvres (landing on a slope) interfered with the enjoyment of the claimant’s land. The case attracted attention in the national press in part because the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ presenter, Tess Daly was apparently put off buying the claimants’ house because of the noise.

The claimant brought a claim in nuisance and Peter Smith J was prepared to order an injunction limiting the times and specifying the location at which the defendant could carry out the particular manoeuvres complained of. In this case it was important that:

  • the only issue complained of was one particular helicopter manoeuvre (there was no complaint about other activities such as the landing and taking off of light aircraft at the aerodrome)
  • the judge considered there was nothing significant about the slope where the manoeuvres were performed which could not be recreated elsewhere
  • the defendant was unwilling to consider alternative locations and was unresponsive to the suggestion there should be fixed times to carry out the particular manoeuvre
  • the claimant was willing to allow two fixed times of 15 minutes per week which was significantly more than the defendant contended it carried out the manoeuvres (there was some doubt as to how frequently the manoeuvres were in fact performed)
  • there was an element of public interest in safety in continuing the helicopter training to be taken into account
  • there was nothing to suggest that the form of the injunction (fixed times and location, not preventing entirely the manoeuvre) would be oppressive

Peter Smith J said if he were called to do so he would assess the damages that he thought were payable, but that he did not consider the issue arose here. Other comments he makes are noteworthy, ‘in nuisance cases like this, there must be give and take’ and ‘the Claimant’s approach has been one of reasonable restraint the Defendant’s approach regrettably has not been the same’.

The Peires case is very recent and it may be appealed. It is nonetheless interesting to see a noise nuisance case so soon after Fen Tigers (itself a noise nuisance case) and the approach a judge may take to awarding an injunction. The moral of the story is to make sure you act reasonably when faced with a claim for injunctive relief, which is an equitable discretionary remedy.

The views expressed by our interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.


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