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What do you want me to do about it?

By J

Noise abatement notices are governed by Part 3, Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended). They are not ‘pure’ housing law but they are frequently used in a housing context, particularly when dealing with noise-related complaints of anti-social behaviour.

In Elvington Park Ltd and another v City of York Council [2009] EWHC 1805 (Admin), Silber J considered the content of a noise abatement notice. The appellants had been convicted by the Magistrates’ Court for causing a  noise nuisance, contrary to s.79(1)(g), 1990 Act, by allowing their airfield to be used for Formula 1 car testing and other motor-vehicle events. They appealed, both to the Crown Court and then to the High Court, against the service of the noise abatement notice. They contended that it was irrational to serve a notice which did not specify the steps that they were expected to take to prevent further noise nuisance.

Section 79(1), 1990 Act provides that it is the duty of every local authority to inspect for statutory nuisances and, where a complaint is made, to take steps to investigate that complaint. If a nuisance is found then, by s.80(1), the authority must serve an abatement notice which must require the abatement of the nuisance and / or require the execution of works or other steps, necessary for the purpose of preventing the nuisance. Failure to comply with a notice gives rise to criminal liability if prosecuted by the authority (s.80(4)).

In the present case, the notice which was served required the appellants to “take the steps necessary to prevent noise from motor vehicles and associated activities causing a statutory nuisance at other premises” without further particulars.

The appellants argued that, having chosen to specify that works or other steps were necessary, it was incumbent on the authority to provide details of the steps that it considered should be taken.

Silber J agreed and held that (at [36]) “… if an abatement notice requires not merely abatement of noise but also steps to be taken, they should be specified but if as in the present case, the notices did not do so, they are invalid.” If this were not the case, then the person served with the notice was liable to criminal prosecution without knowing what was expected of them in order to avoid criminal prosecution.

In light of that finding, it was unnecessary to consider any further challenges to the notice. His Lordship did, however, deal briefly with a second aspect of the irrationality challenge to the notice and dismissed it on the facts of the case.

J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.


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