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Hounslow London Borough Council v Thames Water Utilities Limited, Queens Bench Divisional Court, 23 May 2003

4 June 2003
The issues

Statutory Notice – Abatement Notice – Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The facts

Thames water owned a sewage treatment works at Mogden. The Council served an Abatement Notice under Section 80 of the 1990 Act on the grounds that the smell from the works amounted to a statutory nuisance under Section 79 of the 1990 Act as “arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. The Respondent appealed successfully to the Magistrates Court against the Notice, arguing that the works did not constitute “premises”. The Respondents relied on a decision of the Divisional Court in 1889 – R -v- Parlby – on a similar point in respect of Section 91 of the Public Health Act 1875, which was the predecessor to the 1990 Act. In that case, sewage treatment works were held not to be “premises” for the purposes of the 1875 Act.

The decision

1. Section 79(7) defined “industrial, trade or business premises” and included those used for treatment or process. This was a wide definition, plainly including sewage works on its natural meaning.

2. The only point that the Respondent could rely on was Parlby’s case. Policy considerations leading to the exclusion of sewage treatment works in that case were limited to the terms of the 1875 Act and did not apply in 2003.

3. The definition of statutory nuisance had been changed by the 1990 Act and there was no intention to exclude any particular premises from the Operations Section 79 of the Act.

Appeal of Hounslow London Borough Council allowed.

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