Private Nuisance And Planning Permission

The Court of Appeal has awarded damages and an injunction to

local residents affected by noise from a nearby racing circuit.

The Court of Appeal decided that the racing circuit was causing

a nuisance even though it had planning permission and was operating

within the terms of a binding agreement with the local council.

The claimants in Watson and ors v Croft Promo Sport

Limited (26 January 2009) lived just to the north of a

motor circuit managed by Croft. The circuit, formerly an

aerodrome, had been used for car racing of one sort or another

since 1949.

From 1949 to 1962, it was used as a relief airfield and for car


In 1963, planning permission was granted (following a local

enquiry and subject to conditions) for motor and motorcycle events,

for driving tuition and as a sports centre.

From 1963 to 1979, it was used for car racing on not more than

20 days per year, together with additional associated practice


From 1980 to 1994, it was used for rallycross on 10 days per


Croft became interested in the circuit in 1994 and started to

intensify activities there. From 1995 to 1997, it was used

for sporadic race meetings interspersed with track alteration and


In 1998, there was a further enquiry as Croft tried to remove

some of the conditions that had been attached to the 1963 planning

permission. Croft entered into a unilateral undertaking (the

"Section 106 Agreement") as to the frequency and

intensity of noisy events. The inspector decided to grant

planning permission for the continued use of the circuit for motor

and motorcycle events and as a sports centre free from the 1963

planning conditions, but subject to the conditions set out in the

Section 106 agreement.

From 1998 until 2007, the circuit was used for between 144 and

207 days per year, with most activity concentrated in the summer


In 2006, the claimants brought an action in nuisance against

Croft. Forty to fifty days per year of car and motorcycle

racing was fine, but the vehicle testing and track days on top were

excessive. They sought damages for the nuisance that they had

endured in the past and an injunction to restrain future excessive


Croft's defence was that, although its activities did cause

noise and some discomfort and inconvenience to the claimants, there

was no actionable nuisance because the use of the circuit was

reasonable having regard to the nature and character of the area

arising from the grant of planning...

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