Hunter v Canary Wharf Ltd

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Hunter v Canary Wharf Ltd
Canary Wharf Closeup.jpg
One Canada Square, the building which triggered this case.
CourtHouse of Lords
Decided24 April 1997
Citation(s)[1997] UKHL 14, [1997] AC 655, [1997] 2 WLR 684, [1997] 2 All ER 426, [1997] 2 FLR 342, [1997] Fam Law 601
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingLord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Cooke of Thorndon, Lord Hope of Craighead
Nuisance, protected property rights

Hunter v Canary Wharf Ltd [1997] UKHL 14 is an English tort law case on the subject of private nuisance. Several hundred claimants alleged that Canary Wharf Ltd, in constructing One Canada Square, had caused nuisance to them by impairing their television signal.[1] The House of Lords held unanimously that such interference could not amount to an actionable nuisance; the nuisance was equivalent to loss of a view, or of a prospect, which had never previously been actionable.


Canary Wharf Ltd undertook to construct a large tower (now known as the One Canada Square), for commercial and residential purposes. The tower was completed in November 1990, reaching 250 metres in height, and 50 metres squared in area.[2] However, the tower, being situated less than 10 kilometres from the BBC's primary television transmitter, in Crystal Palace, interfered with the reception of several hundred home owners. It was submitted that before the construction of the tower (in the summer of 1989), television reception had been good.[1] The issue was remedied in April 1991, whereby a broadcast relay was installed in Balfron Tower, to transmit television signal into the area affected.[1] Nevertheless, the claimants alleged that the large metallic structure had interrupted their television reception, and claimed private nuisance – for loss of enjoyment – and remuneration for their wasted television license fee, for the time their signal had been impaired.


The judgment of the House of Lords concentrated on two aspects of private nuisance.

The first issue was who could be seen to have a legitimate right in land, a requirement to sue in nuisance. The Lords rejected the interim case of Khorasandjian v Bush,[3] where it had been found that no proprietary interest in a property was required to bring an action. In doing so, they upheld the findings of Malone v Laskey,[4] establishing again that only householders with a right to a property could commence actions in nuisance.[5] The second issue was that, after establishing who could bring an action for nuisance, what rights were protected by the tort. Lord Lloyd in his judgment referred to three areas of private nuisance:

It was pointed out that, as stated in Walter v Selfe, any nuisance must be relatively substantial, and not merely a 'fanciful complaint'. It had been established previously[7] that a drop in the value of land would not necessarily allow an action in nuisance. The issue at hand however was whether it would be fair in the circumstances to impose restrictions upon land owners with regard to their right to build properties.

Lord Goff referred to several authorities[8][9][10] in support of the common law standing that merely blocking a property owner's view, airflow, or light, is not actionable. From this, he stated that: "more is required than the mere presence of a neighbouring building to give rise to an actionable private nuisance."[11] On the idea that it would be more desirable to allow nuisance claims from someone without an interest in land, Lord Goff said the following.

Whilst it was agreed upon that there had been no actionable nuisance in the instant case,[12] the Lords differed in their interpretations of whether an interference to television reception could constitute a nuisance.[13] Lord Cooke found that an interference by a building could amount to a nuisance, if it was unreasonable, or a misuse of the defendant's land; Lord Hoffmann and Lord Hope however stated that as the right to television reception is not obtained, interference with it could not amount to a nuisance:[13]


"Ought this inconvenience to be considered in fact as more than fanciful, more than one of mere delicacy or fastidiousness, as an inconvenience materially interfering with the ordinary comfort physically of human existence, not merely according to the elegant or dainty modes and habits of living, but according to the plain and sober and simple notions among the English people?"[15]
Walter v Selfe (1851)

Before Hunter it had been judicially stated in Bridlington Relay v Yorkshire Electricity Board[16] that it was not thought interference to television reception could give rise to an actionable nuisance, by Buckley J:

However, these remarks had been made obiter dicta, and thus held no judicial authority. The legal basis on which a complaint of television reception was considered to take place was that of loss of a view, or prospect.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c [1997] AC 655, p. 663
  2. ^ [1997] AC 655, p. 662
  3. ^ Khorasandjian v Bush [1993] QB 727
  4. ^ [1907] 2 KB 141
  5. ^ [1997] AC 655, p. 693
  6. ^ [1997] AC 655, p. 695
  7. ^ Bone v Seale [1975] 1 All ER 787
  8. ^ Attorney-General v Doughty (1752) 2 VesSen 453
  9. ^ Fishmongers' Co. v East India Co (1752) 1 Dick 163
  10. ^ Chastey v Ackland [1895] 2 Ch 389
  11. ^ [1997] AC 655, p. 685
  12. ^ Cane, p. 516
  13. ^ a b Cane, p. 515
  14. ^ per Lord Hoffmann, [1997] AC 655, pp. 710-711
  15. ^ Walter v Selfe (1851) 4 De G & Sm 315, p. 332
  16. ^ Bridlington Relay v Yorkshire Electricity Board [1965] Ch 436
  17. ^ [1965] Ch 436, p. 445
  18. ^ [1997] AC 655, p. 708


External links[edit]