Case law >> Council liable in nuisance for gas escaping from mine

14th May 2013


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  • Local government ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management

Author

IEMA

Hayley Tam and George Hobson from LexisPSL describe case where a local council's failure to deal with escaping gas from an old coal mine results in a successful nuisance claim

In Willis and another v Derwentside District Council [2013] All ER (D) 70, the council was liable in nuisance for gas escaping from a disused colliery. Dangerous emissions were discovered 28 years after the land housing the mine was transferred to the council from the National Coal Board. Despite remedial work to abate the emissions, the council remained liable because it had not issued a certificate of completion for the work.

The main issue was whether the council was liable in nuisance and, if so, the extent of its liability. Private nuisance is an unlawful interference with the use or enjoyment of land or some right over or connection with it. Where the defendant has not caused the nuisance, but merely permitted it to continue, proof of negligence is required. Liability arises only where the defendant fails to take reasonable steps to abate the nuisance once it knew or ought to have known about it.

In this case, the council was under a duty to abate the gas escaping from the date the emissions were discovered. The duty applied to emissions of gas originating from the council’s land as well as gas merely passing through the land.

The claimants successfully argued that the council’s failure to issue a certificate of satisfactory completion of the remedial work meant a mortgage could not be raised on the property, making it unmarketable. Pending the provision of a certificate and an undertaking to monitor and maintain the works, the council had not taken all reasonable steps to abate the nuisance. The claimants were also entitled to claim the costs of employing their own Failure to deal with escaping gas from an old coal mine results in successful nuisance claim against a local councilexpert, which they did after the council refused to disclose its reports.


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