Watson and Others v Croft Promo-Sport Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMR JUSTICE SIMON,Mr Justice Simon
Judgment Date16 April 2008
Neutral Citation[2008] EWHC 759 (QB)
Docket NumberCase No: 7NE90066
CourtQueen's Bench Division
Date16 April 2008

[2008] EWHC 759 (QB)



Newcastle-upon-Tyne District Registry

Leeds Combined Court Centre

Oxford Row, Leeds


Mr Justice Simon

Case No: 7NE90066

(1)Derek Watson
(2)Julia Watson
(3)Jill Wilson
Croft Promo-sport Ltd

Mr David Hart QC and Mr Jeremy Hyam (instructed by Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law) for the Claimants

Mr Gordon Wignall (instructed by Cobbetts LLP) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: January 18, 21–25 2008

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.


The Hon



The Claimants bring the present action for nuisance in respect of noise caused by the Defendant's use of its land at the Croft Motor Circuit, at Dalton-on-Tees near Darlington, in County Durham. The Circuit is approximately 300m from the Claimants' homes, in a group of buildings formerly known as Vince Moor East.


The Claimants' case in summary is that the Defendant has wrongfully caused or permitted excessive noise of a loud, intrusive and repetitive nature for a period since at least March 2000. The Circuit is operated for about 190–200 days a year. On approximately 140 of these days (referred to as N1-N4 days) there is racing activity which produces high levels of noise. The noise on these days constitutes a nuisance throughout the day at levels which exceed what is reasonable by a considerable margin. In the spring, summer and early autumn months there is, on average, activity of some sort on 2 out of 3 days. The Claimants say that this activity severely limits the enjoyment of their homes. They seek injunctive relief to restrict such nuisance, as well as damages. The injunctive relief does not seek to prohibit the use of the Circuit entirely; but to restrict its use to what is said to be reasonable: namely 40 N1-N4 days and unlimited N5 days in each season (from March to November).


The Defendant accepts that there are high levels of noise from the Circuit; but contends that the Claimants have no claim for damages or an injunction. Its case in summary is that the noise from the racing track is what is to be expected in a locality whose nature and character was established by planning permissions for the use of Circuit granted in 1963 and 1998. By a unilateral agreement made under s.106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which constitutes an enforceable planning obligation, the Defendant has agreed to an elaborate set of monitored restrictions which are to the benefit of all who might otherwise be affected by the unconfined use of the Circuit. This agreement was considered by a Planning Inspector to constitute an appropriate balance between the competing interests of those affected by racing at the Circuit, including the Claimants and the Defendant.

Those involved in the case


The First Claimant, Mr Watson, is the owner and occupier of a house at Pond House, Vince Moor East. The Second Claimant, Mrs Watson, is his wife and is also the owner and occupier of Pond House. The Third Claimant, Mrs (Jill) Wilson is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Watson and is the owner and occupier of The Granary, a property adjacent to Pond House. Between 1987 and 1994 she was married to Mr (Jimmy) Wilson.


Croft Promosport Ltd (The Defendant) is a company with a leasehold interest in the land occupied by the Circuit. Croft Classic and Historic Motor Sports Ltd ('CCHM') was a company incorporated on April 1994 by Mr Wilson, Mrs (Katherine) Chaytor-Norris and Mr (Trevor) Chaytor-Norris. It was the initial corporate vehicle for the development of the Circuit; and at some stage in 1996 CCHM was awarded the management contract for Croft Circuit by the Defendant. Mr Chaytor-Norris, as well as being a former director of CCHM, is a director and shareholder of the Defendant. His wife, Mrs Chaytor-Norris is the owner of Croft Motor Circuit.

The historical background to the claim.


Croft aerodrome was build during the Second World War and was designated a relief airfield in 1951. From 1949 to 1957 it was used intermittently for car race meetings.


In July 1962, the North Riding of Yorkshire County Council received a planning application from, Mr Robert Ropner, the owner of the airfield to make a material change of use of the land so as to permit motor trials, motor and motor cycles races and sporting events (including pedal cycle races, athletic meetings, aircraft, helicopters and gliders) to take place. The runways and tracks were at that date derelict and new access was required to be constructed. The application was refused on the grounds of the anticipated noise levels.


A second application was made in September 1962. The basis for this application was explained in a covering letter dated 22 September.

Our client then amended his application to provide for not more than four race meetings per annum for formula cars and this had apparently provided the reassurance which the Croft Council required because we understand that they have now approved the Application.


Planning permission was refused by the County Council; and there was then an appeal to the Minister. At this point the development was described as:

(I) the holding of motoring events including driving tuition, driving tests and motor trials, also motor and motor cycle races provided that cars not licensed for road use are not included in more than four race meetings a year (II) the holding of sporting events including athletics meetings pedal cycle races and games and sports generally (III) to provide runways and facilities for the taking off and landing of aircraft, helicopters and gliders.


The Minister allowed the appeal and granted planning permission in a decision dated 15 August 1963. The permission, which made no reference to the limited basis of the application, allowed the use of the airfield for motor and motor cycle events subject to a number of various conditions which are not material to the present case.


Following the grant of permission, the site was used for motor racing on not more than 20 racing days per year up to 1979. There were also some days on which practising for those racing days took place.


In June 1979 Mr (William) Chaytor (on behalf of a family trust) bought the airfield and, what had by now become, a racing circuit within its area.


In 1981 an application was made and permission granted for

the formation of spoil heaps of concrete and stone from runway and perimeter tracks of disused airfield and return area to agricultural use at disused airfield, Croft.

In the description of the proposed development in the Application Form it was stated that

… the whole area is being returned to Agricultural use – Arable Cropping


Between 1982 and 1994, apart from rallycross (the racing of modified production cars on a mixture of sealed and loose surfaces) on a small part of the circuit for less than 10 days a year, and some engine testing during some of the period, there was no motor racing at Croft.


In 1989 Mr Wilson's company, JF Wilson (Developments) Ltd, bought Vince Moor East. At the time this was a farm complex consisting of a number of derelict buildings. The company was subsequently granted planning permission to convert the buildings into 3 dwelling houses, which became Pond House, the Old Farm House and the Granary; and in 1990 Mr and Mrs Watson purchased Pond House from the developers for £350,000.


In 1994 Mr Trevor Norris (who later changed his name to Chaytor-Norris), with his wife-to-be, Katherine Chaytor and Mr Wilson, incorporated a company, Croft Classic and Historic Motorsport Ltd (CCHM) for the purpose of upgrading and managing operations at the track. An application for planning permission to re-develop the circuit was made on 10 June 1994. On 27 June 1994, a Parish Council meeting was held at which Mr Norris and Mr Wilson presented proposals for development of the Circuit. They told the meeting that rallycross would be reduced and that it was expected there would be about 22 days of racing and 5 practice days per year. This proposed use was backed up by an undated letter from CCHM (dated some time in the summer), in which it offered

to restrict motor car and motor cycle activity on the site with regard to local concern. We are prepared to consider a 25% reduction in the above activity.

The 'above activity' was made up of 11 events over 15 days during the course of 1994.


In October 1994 CCHM informed the Local Planning Authority, Richmondshire District Council (RDC) about more extensive plans for the use of the circuit, following a new application for planning permission [1A/151]. The new plans were for 37 race days, 24 exclusive test days and 120 days when the track would be used for other purposes. In March 1995 Mr Wilson applied to develop the land at Vince Moor East as a hotel.


In May the first race meeting run by CCHM was held on the resurfaced circuit; and on 7 July 1995 planning permission was granted in respect of the October 1994 application.


A number of planning decisions followed, which were challenged. This led to a Public Inquiry, which began in October 1996, continued for 4 days and was then adjourned. Improvement works were carried out over the winter/spring of 1996/7. These works involved changing the configuration of the track and the construction of a control tower and the pit-stops.


On 29 January 1998 the Defendant made a further application for planning permission on the basis that it was prepared to enter into an enforceable planning obligation under s.106 of the Town and Country Planning Act so as to set limits to the amount of noise from racing on the Croft Circuit.


s.106 provides:

(1) Any...

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