Public Authorities Must Behave Reasonably


A recent case, in which a noise abatement notice was issued against a nightclub following a peremptory investigation, highlights the point that when public officials behave unreasonably it is the responsibility of the courts to ensure that businesses and private citizens do not suffer.

A local authority issued a noise abatement notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in response to a complaint from a member of the public. A council officer visited the area for about 40 minutes and the managing director, of the company that owned the nightclub, stated they only knew about the investigation when the notice was served.

The Court found that the nightclub was not, in fact, the source of the noise nuisance and that the council had acted unreasonably. Indeed, the company had done their best in the past to cooperate with the council and experts had been engaged to advise on how to minimise noise from the nightclub. The judge overturned the notice and the council was ordered to pay the company’s legal costs, totalling over £17,000.

The council challenged the costs order in the High Court and argued that, having satisfied itself that there was a statutory nuisance, it was obliged to issue the notice. However, the Court could find no error of law in the judge’s decision and dismissed the appeal.

Southampton City Council v Odysseas (Op Co) Limited.

Rex Cowell