Property development: a local nuisance?

A nuisance is an action carried out by one landowner that unduly interferes with another landowner’s use of its land. It can include noise, smell, physical encroachment and obstruction of rights of light. Property developers often find themselves on the wrong side of claims for nuisance, simply because of the nature of construction activities.

The remedies for nuisance include injunctions, which can be extremely harsh on the developer. For example, in a recent high-profile case, a court ordered the developer to take down an entire floor of an office block, because it interfered with the neighbour’s right to light.

The law of nuisance is a bit of a dog’s breakfast, and it can be very difficult to predict whether an activity will actually constitute a nuisance. This is because the question of whether the activity constitutes a nuisance partly depends upon the character of the locality in which the activity is being carried out. As one judge put it, ‘what would be a nuisance in Belgrave Square would not necessarily be so in Bermondsey’…

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