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Noise nuisance debate could run and run...


Your story 'High Court backs racetrack appeal' describes how the High Court overruled a noise abatement notice served by York Council against Elvington Airfield (EHN, 31 July, page 3).
The judgement said the notice was invalid because it had failed to specify what steps should be taken to reduce the noise. The decision is disappointing as the finding on nuisance
remains, as does the finding that the works or steps should not be specified in the notice. The problems in preventing nuisance may drag on longer as a result.

The decision also creates confusion for local authorities, as there is now conflicting case law. In two cases - Cambridge City Council v Douglas and Surrey Free Inns v Gosport - the courts considered that extra references to works or steps were superfluous. Then there are cases where specifying works or steps is fatal unless they are set out in detail, as in this case.

I have always advised that the safest line is to ditch the standard forms, which have been developed over many years, as they create this type of confusion. It is best to start with a blank sheet to which you add
the minimum points as set out in the Environmental Protection Act. The most important is the description of the nuisance. In the light of the various decisions now handed down, any reference to works or steps anywhere (in the accompanying letter or the notice) should be avoided unless you intend undertaking works in default. In this case you need to ensure there is adequate description of each step or the works items. Notices in the simplest format that adequately describe the nuisance are best.

I have been providing training on the wording of notices for many years, in which time the rules set by the courts have changed regularly. This area is a minefield for local authorities.

Mike Stigwood
MAS Environmental

ehn - 7th August 2009

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