PROPERTY BRIEFING; Commercial Property.
THE Croft Motor Circuit near Darlington is unlikely to be celebrating Noise Action Week this week, unlike some nearby residents, who won damages against Croft Promo-Sport as compensation for the noisy races taking place at Croft.
The case (D Watson and others v Croft Promo-Sport Ltd, April 16, 2008) is illuminating because Croft, despite having used the site as a racing circuit since the 1950s, and had specific planning permission to use it for car and motorbike races for 45 years, lost the High Court case.
The neighbours who objected to the noise at the circuit said it affected the value of their homes, and the enjoyment they could expect within their own properties. They did not object to classic car racing but found that vehicle testing and track days were particularly trying.
Although Croft had planning permission for racing cars and bikes it did not, in the view of the High Court, have permission to make a nuisance of itself to nearby residents in a predominantly rural setting. The residents were awarded damages against Croft of pounds 150,000.
For developers and landowners it is a warning that planning permission in itself does not affect the rights of nearby commercial or residential properties to object and win compensation for noisy activities.
Noise is high on the agenda of government. A UK noise strategy is due to be brought in later this year, delayed from last year. It will look at whether the legislation surrounding noise - neighbours, houses and licensed premises - should be brought together into one Act.
The European Noise Directive has initiated the requirement for noise maps of inhabited areas, roads, railways, airports and industry. The idea is to create noise action plans for the worst affected areas.
It is also wiser to keep the noise down late at night in pubs and clubs.
The provisions of the Noise Act 1996 have applied to licensed premises since October 2006.
Pub, club, restaurant and hotel operators can all be served with a fixed penalty notice if, following a warning notice, noise still exceeds the permitted level.
The instant penalty of pounds 500 imposed on licensees can increase to as much as pounds 5,000 if the matter reaches court. Equipment may also be confiscated and licences reviewed.
This was the final measure under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act to come into force.
It was introduced to fill the gap in existing legislation where an abatement notice or the review of a licence under the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 may involve weeks, months, even years of processing.
Instant fines, with the possibility of much more hefty fines at court, are proving to be a pretty effective deterrent.
Noisy drinkers and drivers may result in penalties for property owners unless they keep the noise down.
Richard Freeman-Wallace is head of property at Watson Burton LLP