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Choppers no longer grounded

by Luke Patel, Partner, Commercial Dispute Resolution Team, LPatel@LawBlacks.com, 0113 227 9316

Noisy neighbours can be a real problem for those unfortunate enough to have to live next door to them. Going to court to deal with the problem is always a last resort. If you do however need to pursue court proceedings then there are two main remedies available: you can either pursue a claim for damages or apply for an injunction.

Damages are a monetary award designed to compensate the injured party for the noise which it has suffered. An injunction is an order from the court requiring the recipient to cease the action complained of. Case law indicates that the court is more likely to award damages than to grant an injunction when faced with nuisance claims.   This notion has been reinforced by the recent case of Peires v Bickerton’s Aerodromes Limited.

Mrs Peires was the owner of land next to an aerodrome. She complained about the noise generated by exercises being carried out by helicopters there. The helicopters would land, take off, hover, turn through 180 degrees and land again.   The manoeuvres took place on a slope (towards the boundary of Mrs Peires’ property) because part of the mandatory training requirements for a helicopter pilot is landing and taking off from sloping ground. Mrs Peires claimed that the noise created by the helicopters made it impossible for her use the garden or to sell her property. She therefore sought an injunction against the owners of the aerodrome.

Initially, Mrs Peires was successful; the High Court granted her an injunction which allowed the helicopter training to continue but limited the times that it could take place. The Judge rejected Bickerton’s Aerodromes’ defence that it had statutory immunity under the Civil Aviation Act 1982 (which prevents claims being brought in trespass or in nuisance against aircrafts flying over someone’s property) on the basis that the exercise being carried out by the helicopters on the slope did not involve any “flight” within the meaning of the Act. The Judge felt that the appropriate remedy was an injunction rather than awarding Mrs Peires damages as damages would have left her with continued noise. The defendant appealed.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and lifted the injunction. It found that the Judge had been wrong in his interpretation of the Act – there was no justification when considering a defence under the Act for confining it to noise in the context of lateral travel from one fixed point to another. The helicopters had been “in flight” and therefore the defence under the Act was available.

The decision illustrates how difficult it is to obtain an injunction in this type of case.

Blacks Solicitors LLP, City Point, 29 King Street, Leeds LS1 2HL

www.LawBlacks.com – 0113 207 0000

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