Can your neighbours acquire a right to be noisy and how can they be stopped?

In the recent case of Coventry v Lawrence, the Supreme Court took the opportunity to clarify the law of private nuisance and to make some fundamental changes to previously well-established principles. The important judgment, among other things, clarified that it is possible to acquire, via prescription, a right to commit an act that would otherwise be deemed a noise nuisance, and that the grant of planning permission does not remove the ability of a property owner to object to an act that would, in the absence of that permission, be a nuisance. The existence of planning permission may, however, be a factor that would sway a court to refuse an injunction and compensate the claimant in damages instead.

When a person undertakes something on their own land that they are legally entitled to do, but the consequences of which negatively affect the land of their neighbour, the tort of private nuisance is committed.

Whether or not an activity actually constitutes a nuisance can in part be determined by assessing the character of the locality in which the activity is carried out. If the assessment concludes that the use of the land is reasonable, then the act will not amount to a nuisance. Consideration of the act itself is not sufficient; the circumstances of the act must be considered — what constitutes a nuisance in one area may not be so in another…

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