Supreme Court: Motor racing company wins in appeal over noise complaint by neighbouring equine stud farm



The Supreme Court has ruled that the scope of the injunction placed on a racing company, Tipperary Raceway, could not be sustained either on the basis of claims of planning or nuisance brought by Tullamaine Castle Stud, a company running a nearby equine stud farm.

Mr Justice Clarke ruled that the scope of the injunction was incorrect, however he was not satisfied that it was either appropriate or possible for the Supreme Court to substitute its own injunction. The case was therefore remitted back to the High Court to determine an appropriate injunction in light of the analysis of the issues conducted by the Supreme Court.

Background

Tullamaine brought their claim to the High Court based in part on a contention that Tipperary Raceway was acting in breach of the planning laws, alleging that there had been a material change of use of the motor racing circuit by reason of a significant intensification of use.

In addition, Tullamaine contended that the manner in which the motor racing circuit was operated amounted to a private law nuisance.

The High Court gave judgment in favour of Tullamaineboth in respect of the planning and nuisance aspects of the case – and an injunction was imposed on Tipperary Raceway which had the effect of significantly restricting the operation of the motor racing circuit.

The central overall question in Tipperary Raceway’s appeal to the Supreme Court was whether the scope of the injunction imposed by the High Court was excessive.

Material change of use

There had been a material change of use between the 1980s and the time when these proceedings came to be heard, however Justice Clarke stated that the problem was that the trial judge did not consider that it was necessary to assess whether some or all of that material change of use had occurred outside the limitation period.

Notwithstanding, Justice Clarke was not satisfied that the planning permission in this case contained a specific condition concerning scale and timing of operation, therefore that use could not be held as a breach of a specific condition contained in the 1981 planning permission.

There was more than ample evidence before the trial judge to justify a finding of a breach of the planning laws (including breaches which post-dated the limitation period) and also a finding of a continuing nuisance.

In the context of planning, the injunction imposed failed to have regard to the fact that some of the intensification of use, which amounted to a material change of use, was statute barred.

Nuisance

On the nuisance aspect the injunction was crafted largely by reference to a 1981 planning application and permission rather than, as it should have been, by reference to the measures that were reasonably required to do justice in all the circumstances of the case in the light of the established nuisance.

There was ample evidence to suggest that noise associated with the so-called practise of “drifting” was particularly acute. There was also evidence to suggest that there had been a significant growth in the activity concerned in recent times such that there was a realistic prospect that much, if not all, of the practise of drifting might be found to be a material change of use post-limitation period and also to be a significant contributor to the current nuisance.

While some injunction ought to have been granted, Justice Clarke was satisfied that the injunction as actually granted could not be stood over either in respect of the planning or the nuisance aspects of the case.

Therefore the injunction granted by the High Court could not be sustained either on the basis of the planning claim or on the basis of the claim in nuisance.

The injunction

Justice Clarke was satisfied that some type of injunction was likely to have been justified on planning grounds, however the trial judge was incorrect to disregard the planning limitation period and consequently the order actually granted was incorrect

On a proper construction, there was no relevant condition attached to the planning permission in this case concerning scale and time of use. Thus section 160(6)(b) of the Planning and Development Act 2000  (which excludes from the relevant limitation period any claim which is brought seeking to enforce a condition in a planning permission) did have any application to this appeal.

Justice Clarke held that while some injunction was justified on the basis of the established nuisance, it was incorrect to formulate the injunction concerned by reference to a 1980s planning application and permission rather than by reference to what was reasonably required to deal, in a just fashion, with the nuisance today.

Justice Clarke was not satisfied that it was possible for the Supreme Court to substitute its own injunction, therefore he remitted the case back to the High Court to determine what form of injunction should be appropriate in the light of the analysis of the issues conducted by the Supreme Court.

While emphasising that any interim measure imposed by the Supreme Court should not govern or influence the ultimate determination made by the High Court, Justice Clarke proposed as an interim measure that the practise of drifting be restrained until such time as the High Court has the opportunity to consider the appropriate form of injunctive relief to put in place on a permanent basis.

  • by Róise Connolly for Irish Legal News