Some industrial processes simply cannot be carried on without producing noise and dust. As a High Court ruling showed, however, commercial property owners may be required to pay a high price if their activities enter the realms of nuisance.
When a couple purchased their rural home, one of the attractions was a nearby lake. The water feature, however, was in fact a disused quarry for which unconditional planning permission had been granted more than 30 years previously. The lake was subsequently drained and stone quarrying work was recommenced.
The couple said that a quarry blast had caused cracks to appear in their property. Heavy traffic moving to and from the site passed along a roadway about 75 metres from their home. Noise and dust emanating from the site prevented them from watching TV, conversing, socialising or relaxing in their garden.
After they launched proceedings, the Court found that 45 per cent of the cracks were caused by the blast. The couple had, due to the quarrying operations, been exposed to excessive noise and dust for a period of four years. In all three respects, the quarry's owner had committed an actionable nuisance.
The owner was, by virtue of the extant planning consent, permitted to engage in quarrying operations on the site. However, he could only do so insofar as he did not create a nuisance. The interference with the couple's lives was very significant. Noise levels were high and continuous. The nuisance had a serious and detrimental impact on their use and enjoyment of their home.
The couple were awarded £63,268 in compensation. That was made up of £13,268 for the physical damage to their home and £50,000 in respect of noise and dust nuisance. An injunction was also issued against the owner requiring him to take numerous steps to abate the nuisance.
Those steps included the purchase of quieter plant and equipment, the fitting of noise mitigation devices to all machinery and the relocation of noisy processes away from the couple's home. Dust was required to be damped down, decibel limits were imposed and restrictions were placed on lorry movements and the quarry's operating hours.