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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Monday 24 April 2017

"Stop that helicopter. I'm trying to sleep"

Whether its from the drummer in the flat above or the next door neighbour who drills into concrete as a hobby, noise can be a confounded nuisance. As it happens, the law formally calls it a nuisance where it really does interfere with you comfort but applying the standards of the average person. It you are unduly sensitive then that could be tough on you. Lots of things will be taken into account: in particular the type of neighbourhood. If you live in the heart of a large city, you cannot expect the same peace as someone who lives in the middle of nowhere. The fact that you came to the nuisance - it was going on before you arrived on the scene - will not prevent you being able to try and get the nuisance stopped or restricted or recover damages(or both).

And if you live by an aerodrome and the noise comes from there? Then  you are likely to have a problem. You cannot successfully bring a claim alleging noise nuisance caused by the flight of aircraft   because whoever is responsible will have a defence to the claim under the Civil Aviation Act 1982. That's provided that the aircraft have been flying at a height which is reasonable having regard to wind, weather and all other circumstances.

The lady in a case which has just been decided by the Court of Appeal * had a problem. She lived near an aerodrome and made a claim in which she complained of the noise generated by exercises carried out by helicopters on the part of the aerodrome which sloped towards the boundary of her property. The helicopters would land, take off, hover, turn through 180 degrees and land again. The exercises took place on the slope because part of the mandatory requirements for a helicopter pilot is landing and taking off from sloping ground.

A High Court judge granted the lady an injunction which prohibited the exercises near her property. The judge concluded that the defence under the Civil Aviation Act was not available to the aerodrome for the reason that the exercises did not involve any flights. The aerodrome appealed.

The Court of Appeal has quashed the injunction. There was no justification when considering the defence under the Civil Aviation 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 the defence was available.

So if you are thinking of moving, check first that the property in which you are interested isn't damp or haunted and that the sellers haven't covered over a nearby aerodrome with a blanket. 

* The case was Peires v Bickerton's Aerodromes Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 273