Nuisance and the perils of preventive action

In the UK, private nuisance has traditionally been the main form of legal action available against many forms of environmental harm, and can provide a powerful remedy. Yet, at a time when many governments are emphasising the importance of anticipatory action in the environmental field, a decision of the Court of Appeal has illustrated that common law principles may not assist the individual who takes steps to prevent environmental damage taking place on his land.

In Midland Bank v Bardgrove Property Services and others (37 Estates Gazette 126, 19 September 1992), the defendants were a property development company, a building contractor and engineering firms involved in developing a site in north London.

The site adjoined land owned by Midland Bank. In 1985, it was excavated, exposing a vertical earth face at the boundary, and temporary shoring was erected by the contractors. Some subsidence

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