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Review Your SQE 1 Practice Records

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Greenfield Chemicals Ltd owns and operates a factory near a predominantly rural area of a town. This factory manufactures components for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Over a long period, local inhabitants have been complaining that emissions from the factory fall as acid rain, damaging their washing hung out to dry in their gardens and rendering the nearby local authority-owned football pitches unplayable. 

Which of the following statements best describes the most appropriate action, if any, which may be available at common law to the local residents of the town?

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The most appropriate action available to the local inhabitants of the town is to bring an action in private nuisance for damage to the laundry and public nuisance for damage to the football pitches. In order for an action to sound in private nuisance, the residents must show a proprietary interest in the land affected by the nuisance. Injury to a person or a person's property is illustrative of private nuisance, and this is an example of an industrial complex causing noxious emissions which causes damage to the residents' land. It seems clear in this scenario that the residents either owned or occupied the land on which the damage was caused to their laundry. In terms of the local authority-owned football pitch, the residents do not appear to have a proprietary interest in the land. The likelihood is that, at most, the residents that use the pitches are mere licensees. However, to bring a claim under public nuisance in tort, unlike a claim in tort for private nuisance, the residents would not have to show that they had a legal interest in the land. It seems likely that the residents could establish the tort of public nuisance, since they are likely to be able to show they have been affected by the nuisance as a particular class of the public. 

Key Point: Private nuisance requires a proprietary interest in the land, while public nuisance can be brought by those who are affected as part of a class of the public without such an interest.

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