Planning controls and nuisance actions

In what appears to be the first clear-cut decision on the point, the High Court has recently held that by granting planning permission a local authority has changed the character of a neighbourhood, and may therefore find itself unable to bring an action in nuisance for environmental damage that may subsequently occur. The decision has major implications for the relationship of planning controls and legal remedies dealing with environmental pollution.

Gillingham Borough Council v Medway (Chatham) Dock Co Ltd and others (Queens Bench Division, 30 July 1991) concerned the Chatham Royal Dockyard, which closed in 1982. Part of the dock was eventually leased to the defendant company, and in 1983 planning permission was granted for its development as a commercial dockyard.

According to the judgement, it was no secret that the proposed development would be in use round the clock. The comp

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