Legal Principles and Key Points
- In the case of Hunter v Canary Wharf Limited 1997 ac 655, it was held that a person’s right to build on their land was not restricted because their building might interfere with a neighbour’s enjoyment of the land.
- A nuisance action based on interference due to noise, dirt or smell might succeed whereas interference with a television signal would not.
Facts of the Case
- H and others brough an action in nuisance with regards to an interference caused to their television reception because of the construction of the Canary Wharf Tower.
- H appealed against a Court of Appeal ruling that no action lay in private nuisance for interference with a television signal caused by the mere presence of a building and CW cross appealed against a decision that the mere occupation of property as a home entitled an occupier to sue in private nuisance.
Issues in Hunter v Canary Wharf Limited 1997 ac 655
- Whether interference with one’s TV reception amount to an actionable nuisance claim.
- Whether it was necessary for C to have property interest before a claim could be launched.
Held by House of Lords
- Appeal dismissed
- Cross appeal allowed
- Held that as to the right to sue in private nuisance, it had for many years been regarded as settled law that a person who had no right in the affected land could not sue for private nuisance.
- In relation to the interference with television reception, there was no reported case where an easement against the interruption of radio or television signals had yet been recognised. The closest analogy was with interrupted prospect, which could not be acquired by prescription but only by agreement or express grant. Unless restricted by covenant the owner was entitled to put up whatever he chooses on his own land even though his neighbour’s view was interrupted. The interruption of view would carry with it various consequence.
- “Staughton L.J. used those words in distinguishing the decision of Buckley J. in Gillingham Borough Council v. Medway (Chatham) Dock Co. Ltd  Q.B. 343, a case somewhat similar to the present case, in that it concerned the development of a new commercial port on the site of a disused naval dockyard. Heavy vehicle traffic at night undoubtedly had a seriously deleterious effect on the comfort of local residents, but the judge held that, although a planning consent could not authorise a nuisance, it could change the character of the neighbourhood by which the standard of reasonable user fell to be judged. This principle appears to me to be sound and to apply to the present case as far at least as television reception is concerned. Although it did interfere with television reception the Canary Wharf tower must, I think, be accepted as a reasonable development in all the circumstances. The effect of the tower on television reception was extensive enough to bring the concept of public nuisance into play, but I see no material difference on this point between public and private nuisance.
For these reasons, while not satisfied that a categorical universally applicable answer can be given to the issue about television reception, I agree that in this case the claim of nuisance consisting of interference with such reception cannot succeed; but I would dismiss the appeal from the Court of Appeal’s ruling that occupation of a property as a home provides a sufficiently substantial link to enable the occupier to sue in private nuisance, to the extent that the ruling relates to interference with amenities as distinct from injury to the land.” pg,37