How does the law react when residents complain of a nuisance caused by a nearby industrial neighbour? It all comes down to whether use of land is reasonable in all the circumstances.

In a recent case, Biffa operated a landfill site. It had planning permission and the appropriate environmental permit. Nearby neighbours argued that they were suffering from odour nuisance from site; in the end over 150 claimants joined the litigation.

The Technology and Construction Court came to the following conclusions:  

  • The existence of an appropriate environmental permit/planning permission, while not guaranteeing that the permitted activity cannot cause a nuisance, was relevant because such permissions helped to answer whether or not an activity was an unreasonable user of land, given the neighbourhood.
  • The claimants were not alleging negligence. In this case Biffa's use of the site was a reasonable use of land, so the nuisance claim failed.
  • If negligence were to be proved, a threshold of 52 "odour complaint days" per year would be the trigger for whether or not an odour nuisance existed.  

Barr & others v Biffa Waste Services Limited (No.3) (2011)