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Planning permissions do not extinguish private rights

27 June 2008

If you want to change the use of land or develop on it, you need planning permission – but that’s not the whole story.

As a recent case shows, having permission for a particular use is not an authority to use the land in a way that causes a nuisance to neighbours.

In the case, planning consents had been granted in 1963 and 1990 for use of the land as a motor racing circuit. Neighbours complained that the circuit was being used in an unreasonable way, resulting in long periods of intense noise, which constituted a nuisance.

Racing at the circuit pre-dated the existence of the claimants’ homes, which had been built in 1989. Nevertheless, the court found that the circuit had caused a nuisance and awarded damages to the claimants. Although the circuit had operated for some forty years, the site had been developed over time and noise levels had gradually intensified. The planning permissions were administrative decisions, and they could not extinguish private rights without payment of compensation.

Fortunately for the land owner, the claimants had indicated their willingness to accept compensation. Therefore the court did not grant an injunction preventing the land from being used as a racing circuit, which would have closed the land owner’s business. They did, however, award damages assessed on the basis of loss of amenity over the preceding six years and the loss in capital value to the claimants’ properties.

As always, if you need commercial and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Emma Thompson LLB (Hons)
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