Scrapyard shut down as widow wins peace action

Date:

24/04/2009

Author:

Jack Grove

Source:

Cambridge News Online

Matter:

Thornhill - Scrapyard nuisance

AN 81-year-old widow has won the right to peace and quiet after a judge fined a scrapyard which she says has made her life a misery.

Pamela Thornhill brought her legal action against the scrapyard off Newmarket Road after claiming her "enjoyment" of her Station Lodge home at Barnwell Junction was ruined by the "nuisance" of noise, vibration and dust coming from the yard.

Mrs Thornhill, who has lived in the former station master's home for more 50 years, took her case to London's High Court, where she argued the Swann Road scrapyard, near Cambridge United's Trade Recruitment Stadium, should be closed as it was too noisy.

The case hinged on whether a clause in the contract between Mrs Thornhill's husband, Derek, who died in 1975, and the railway board who sold the property to the British Rail engineer in 1969, overrided her right to complain.

David Phillips QC, representing the site's operators Sita MR Cambridge Ltd, accepted the noise from the site was "sufficient to constitute a nuisance".

But he argued Mrs Thornhill - and her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Trevor Foulkes, who live nearby - should expect some degree of noise near their homes because the site had originally been part of industrial land.

Matthew Hutchings, for Mrs Thornhill, said those arguments were "simply flawed" and nothing in the 1969 conveyance took away their common law right as property owners to sue for nuisance.

Judge Richard Seymour today rejected arguments that a clause in the original land conveyance restricted Mr Thornhill's legal rights and precluded his widow from winning either an injunction or damages.

He ordered Sita MR to pay £25,000 damages to Mrs Thornhill, and members of her family, as well as her massive legal costs bills, estimated at more than £300,000.

He said: "The right to complain over a nuisance is not a commodity to be bought and sold on a whim."

He added it was simply "not possible in law" to prevent a freehold property owner having the right to complain of nuisance by the "simple expedient" of restricting that right in a land conveyance.

Turning to the massive legal costs of the case, the judge remarked: "Although substantial, this action is essentially a fairly straightforward nuisance action.

"It therefore was something of a surprise for me to be told that the claimants' actual costs total £339,067."

He ordered the Sita companies - who had earlier agreed to cease scrap metal operations on the site if Mrs Thornhill won her case - to pay £100,000 in legal costs on account, pending final assessment of lawyers' bills.

The Scrapyard is now run and owned by Nationwide Metal Recycling Ltd after SITA stopped operating there.