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Environmental Policy and Law - Essay Example

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The case law I will be using in order to study the influence of a single piece of case law on the judgements made by the courts in England and Wales with regards to statutory notice, is the Birmingham City Council v/s Oakley (2000); where the Birmingham City Council formed the appellant, and Oakley (AP) was the respondent.
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Environmental Policy and Law
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Question: Critically evaluate a SINGLE PIECE of case law that has influenced how the courts in England and Wales make judgements with regard to Statutory Nuisance.
The case law I will be using in order to study the influence of a single piece of case law on the judgements made by the courts in England and Wales with regards to statutory notice, is the Birmingham City Council v/s Oakley (2000); where the Birmingham City Council formed the appellant, and Oakley (AP) was the respondent.
When Mr and Mrs Oakley took the local authority, i.e. the Birmingham City Council to court, it was a reaction by the Oakleys against the Birmingham City Council following the latter's failure to abate a statutory nuisance. The respondents contended that the premises were 'in such a state as to be prejudicial to health' within the meaning of s 79(1)(a)a of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. (House of Lords, 2000)
The scenario in the house where the Oakleys were tenants was such: the bathroom next to kitchen was devoid of a washbasin, therefore forcing the inmates to wash their hands in the kitchen sink. Contamination of food and foul smell were one of the few complaints that arose from this state of affairs. Taking place over a period of five days, the case closed on the decision that the appeal would be allowed. According to the case, there was a grave health hazard in the state of the premises. It was left upto the Justices to determine whether the risk was sufficient to constitute a statutory nuisance. The case went onto explore the legislative history of statutory nuisance, from the time of its mid-Victorian roots, and concluded that "prejudicial to health" should be interpreted in line with its "sanitary" origins; and that section 79(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is directed to the presence of some feature of premises which is in itself prejudicial to health, by way of being the source of possible infection, illness or disease. (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, 2000)
This brings us to the issue of the origin of nuisance at Common Law. A conclusion to the contrary, i.e. dismissal of the appeal, would have carried forth an illegitimate extension of the meaning of that provision which had to be construed in the light of its legislative history. Similar to earlier provisions, s 79 was designed to provide a means for the summary removal of noxious matters which were prejudicial to health in their own capacity.
As far as the determination of nuisance by the Courts at Common Law were concerned, the judges attributed importance to the fact that parliament had provided alternative powers for councils to deal with sound insulation, e.g. the building regulations and the housing health and safety rating system. They also made comments to the "decent homes" initiative according to which all social housing should be brought up to a reasonable standard by 2010. (House of Lords, 2000)
The origin of statutory nuisance can be found in the invention of the common-law remedy of injunctive relief. Despite its long history, statutory nuisance law is still considered important in dealing with localised environmental problems. But it is an area of law that is now beginning to creak-the result of both its historical origins and the attitude of contemporary judges to its modern application. (
Coming to the subject of the relationship between common law nuisance and statutory nuisance, it may be noted that the law of nuisance is primarily concerned with the unlawful interference with a person's use or enjoyment of land, or of some right over or in connection with it. In attempting to assess liability in a nuisance action, a balance is made between the reasonableness of the defendant's activity and its impact upon the plaintiff's proprietary rights. This where it assists statutory law nuisance as it does not apply where proceedings to deal with the nuisance could be taken under Part I of EPA'90. Therefore the relationship between both can be defined as a pragmatic one which can be found in the defense of "coming to the nuisance, apart from the ability to produce a variety of solutions. (Barry N, 2003)
In conclusion, it can be said that while it may seem as if it has not been possible to use the nuisance part of statutory nuisance to deal with inadequate sound insulation between dwellings, it may still be possible to use statutory nuisance powers where sound insulation to dwellings becomes inadequate due to changes to the premises, rather than deficiency in the original construction. Modern courts must come to realise that the statutory nuisance regime can provide an effective means for local government to deal rapidly with environmental problems as well as an accessible remedy for the private individual.
References Cited:
1. Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. URL: (Accessed on: 1st November, 2006)
2. House of Lords. URL: (Accessed on: 1st November, 2006)
3. Norman Barry. Features: Law and Property: The Best Hope for Liberty The Freeman - Ideas on Liberty, Vol. 53, No. 7; July 2003
4. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia. URL: (Accessed on: 1st November, 2006) Read More
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