Attorney General v PYA Quarries Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeLORD JUSTICE DENNING,LORD JUSTICE ROMER,LORD JUSTICE PARKER
Judgment Date15 March 1957
Judgment citation (vLex)[1957] EWCA Civ J0315-1
Date15 March 1957

[1957] EWCA Civ J0315-1

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Before:

Lord Justice Denning,

Lord Justice Romer and

Lord Justice Parker.

Her Majesty's Attorney-General on the Relation of the Glamorgan County Council and the Pontardaws Rural District Council
and
P.Y.A. Quarries Limited

MR F. W. BENEY, Q.C., MR DIFAN ROBERTS, and MR HAROLD MADDOCKS (instructed by Messrs Waterhouse & Co., Agents for Messrs T.W. James & Co., Swansea) appeared on behalf of the Appellants (Defendatns).

MR H. EDMUND DAVIES, Q.C., MR D. MORGAN EVANS and MR MICHAL EVANS (instructed by Messrs Lewin, Gregory, Mead & Soin, Agents for Mr Richrd John, Cardiff) appeaard on behalf of the Respondents (Plaintiffs).

LORD JUSTICE DENNING
1

I will ask Lord Justice Romer to deliver the first judgment.

LORD JUSTICE ROMER
2

This is an appeal from an Order of Mr Justice Olier dated the 25the April, 1956, whereby he granted on injunction restraining the Defendants from carrying on the business of quarrying at Fenysalitwen near Fontardawe in the County of Glamorgn in such a manner as to cause sontes or splinters to be projected from the Confines of the said quarry of to occasion a nuisance to Her Majesty's subjects by dust or by vibrations. It will be observed that whereas the injunction is unqualified as to the stones and splinters therein mentioned it is confined so far as dust and vibration are concerned to occasioning a nuisance to Her Majesty's subjects. The Defendant Appellants are only challenging the second part of the Order, namely, the injunction withe regard to dust and vibration.

3

The action has been brought by the Attorney-General on the relation of the Glamorgan County Council and the Pontardawe Rural District Council, and it is founded upon a public nuisance under the three broad headings which were dealt with by the Order of the learned Judge. The Statement of Claim alleges that the nuisances complained of have existed since about 1947.

4

The Defendant Company was incorporated in 1929 but apparently carried on its activities on a somewhat modest scale for some years. In 1947 the Pontardawe Rural Distrlot Council granted permission to the Company under the Town and Country Planning Acts for the further working of the then existing quarry, subject to certain conditions, one of which was that the Council should be satisfied that the utmost precautions would be taken to prevent nuisance from dust. In 1949 Mr Bryndley Thomas became a Director of the Defendant Company: there were then three other Directors, namely, Mr Wyndham Thomas, Mr Jim Morris and Mr Iityd Williams, the last named gentleman being also the Manager, From 1951 onwards Mr Bryndley Thomas and Mr Wyndhaa Thomas took over the management of the business, and Mr Illtyd Williams left in the same year.

5

The Defendants' quarry adjoins a highway called the Alltwen-Brynllewellyn highway, which runs roughly east and west. Immediately east of the quarry is a footpath which leads in a northerly direction from the highway. To the east of this footpath are eight dwelling-houses abutting on to the highway and on the north side of it. The nearest of these houses is about 50 yards from the nearest point of the quarry. Close to the quarry on the west side of it, and also abutting on to the highway on the north side, are some 20 houses, of which the nearest is 55 yards from the quarry and the furthest about 260 yards. Abeut 250 yards to the south of the quarry is a fare called Alltwenganol which is surrounded by fields. To the north-west of the quarry is another highway, called Dyffryn Road, which, at its closest prorimity to the quarry (a matter of some 360 yards) is used for residential purposes. The locality is shown in detail in a plan which was put in evidence at the trial, and the learned Judge gave the following general description of it. "Round the quarry on both sides of it", he said, "can be seen groups of houses. The quarry, according to the evidence, is not more than about 25 or 26 years old; that is to say, it has not been an open quarry for longer than that; that it has not been worked. But many of these little houses, I think, have been built much longer than that. They form a little colony. One does not see any particular reason for their existence at that place; certainly nothing to do with the quarry. But one assumes that they were houses which for people who found Pontardawe – which is away to the left of the plan – not a particularly charming place to live in and take came to move out to these little houses, where theyhave, certainly on three sides, some very beautiful Welsh sconery, with fine hills and valleys. That, I take it, was the reason these houses were built, and that is the nature of the people who occupy them; people who are not interested in the quarry at all, who have other occupations, who follow all sorts of occupations. Some work in steel; there is a lady, Mrs Davlea, who is a Justice of the Peace; there is a schoolmaster or two, and one with academic distinction, a Bachelor of science; and there are all sorts of mixed people".

6

Some time before the year 1949 the activities of the Defendants in their quarrying operations considerably increased, and some of the householders living in the vicinity of the quarry began to complain to the local authorities.

7

In June of 1949 thirty local residents presented a petition to the Pontardawe Rural District Council in which, after stating that innumerable complaints had been made to the Managing Direotor of the Defendant Company over a lens period, they stated: "On a number of occasions damage by flying stones has been done to the houses in the vicinity of the qquarry and recently a pans of a kitchen window was blown in by blast littering a breakfast table with jagged pieces of glass, the wife in the home narrowly recaping injury. We sincerely believe that your Authority cannot fail to realise the seriousness of the position and the earnestness of our protest against: 1. The (Banner in which blasting operations are carried out regardless of the risk of damage to our homes. 2. The flying pieces of rook on occasions following blasting operations landing some distance from the quarry constitute a very serious menace to life inside and outside the home and to users of the public highway. 3. The dust nuisance caused by stone crushing the dust penetrating the houses and having injurious effects. The dust on oocasions makes the use of the main road for some distance unpleasant and unhealthy. We appeal to the members of your Authority responsible for the interests of the ratepayer a to take immediately whatever action may be necessary to remove the causes of our protest".

8

Following upon the receipt by the Council of this petition, their Public Health Committee hold a number of meetings at which they considered the position, and after a meeting which took place on the 13th December, 1949, between the Committee and representatives of the Defendants and a deputation from the residents, a sub-committee of the Council which had been appointed visited the quarries and watched the Defendants' operations and as a result reported that the dust nuisance at the quarries was negligible, and further that no splinters fell outside the perimeter of the quarry during blasting operations. As a result, however, of further complaints from local residents further trials were carried out, and on the 27th April, 1950, a vibration test was conducted at the quarry. As the result partly of this test the Committee still appeared to be of the opinion that no action could be taken against the Defendants, as appears from some Minutes which were put in eveidence. Complaints from the residents continued to be made, and on the 8th July, 1950, the Clerk of the Glamorgan County Council wrote to the Defendants calling their attention to the feet that stones and splinters were falling upon or being blasted across the highway which adjoined the quarry and asking them for an assurance that adequate steps would he taken forthwith to ensure that such a practice should cease. That letter remained unanswered. The Clerk of the County Council wrote again on the 20th July, 1950, and on the 26th July, 1950, received a letter from the Defendants to the effect that the Defendants were "taking extraordinary precautions" during the blasting operations. A meeting took place between the Pontardawe Rural District Council and the Defendants, and on the 15th Marsh, 1951, the Clerk to the Council wrote to the Defendants saying that the nuisance resulting from their quarrying operations had not been abated and was unlikely to be abated for a substantial period if at all, and that the Council had decided to take appropriate proceedings to secure the abatement of the nuisance. In fact, however, the Writ in this action was not issued until the 4th July, 1952. In the mean time, however, and indeed from the early summer of 1950, letters of complaint had been arriving in a steady stress at the offices of the Relator Councils from persons who lived la the neighbourhood of the quarry. It will be necessary to refer in greater detail to these complaints later on in this Judgment, but it is enough for the moment to say that although most of them related to the projection of stones from the quarry (a natural emphasis having regard to the potential danger to property end personal safety arising from the bombardment) some of the complaints referred also to vibration and dust.

9

During the last few years certain changes and devellopments have taken plce in the quarring plant on the Defendants' premises and in their operational methods. Up to 1950 the Defendants drilled 12 ft. holes of 1 ins. diameter. The holes, four to six in number, were drilled 3ft. to 4 ft. back from the face of the quarry and about 6 lbs of eiplosive ware used in each hole. These charges were fired simultaneously and produced a...

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2 firm's commentaries
  • Using Commercial Drones: What Are The Legal Risks?
    • Australia
    • Mondaq Australia
    • 22 November 2018
    ...of the land of a particular individual, a complainant may be able to make out a breach of the tort of nuisance (AG v PYA Quarries Ltd [1957] 2 QB 169 at 190-1). Generally, a complainant must make out multiple infractions for a breach to occur (see JP Investments Pty Ltd v Howard Chia Invest......
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    • JD Supra Australia
    • 19 November 2018
    ...of the land of a particular individual, a complainant may be able to make out a breach of the tort of nuisance (AG v PYA Quarries Ltd [1957] 2 QB 169 at 190-1). Generally, a complainant must make out multiple infractions for a breach to occur (see JP Investments Pty Ltd v Howard Chia Invest......
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    • Social & Legal Studies Nbr. 11-1, March 2002
    • 1 March 2002
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  • Nuisance — the Environmental Tort? Hunter v Canary Wharf in the House of Lords
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    • The Modern Law Review Nbr. 61-6, November 1998
    • 1 November 1998
    ...themselves be in a position to sue, especially if supported by a tradeunion.56 ‘a class of Her Majesty’s subjects’ – AG vPYA Quarries [1957] 2 QB 169, 184 per Romer LJ.57 In non commercial situations, this effectively means physical harm. Thus, where all the plaintiffssuffered the same harm......

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