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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018

Attorney General v PYA Quarries [1957] 2 QB 169

Nuisance – Public Nuisance – Indiscriminate Effect


The defendants operated a quarry and used a blasting technique which emitted large quantities of dust and noise, as well as causing vibrations which interfered with the enjoyment of land for many individuals in the area.  The claimants sought an injunction preventing the continuation of a public nuisance as a result.  The defendant’s alleged that what was being carried out was in fact a private nuisance which effected only those in the area and that they were therefore not bound by the injunction prohibiting ‘public nuisance’ as a result. 


Were the defendant’s actions a private or public nuisance?  What was the distinguishing feature between a private and public nuisance and at which point did a private nuisance become public in nature?


The blasting operation was capable of constituting a public nuisance and the injunction could be granted to prevent it.  Whilst it was difficult to precisely define the difference between a public and a private nuisance, a public nuisance could be one which materially affected the reasonable comfort or convenience of a class of Her Majesty’s subjects.  What constitutes a ‘class’ of people within a neighbourhood depends on the facts of any particular case and it is impossible to define the precise number of individuals necessarily effected for them to be considered a ‘class’.  Neither do all individuals within the class have to be personally affected by the nuisance, as long as a representative cross section have been so effected.  A public nuisance is so indiscriminate in its effect that it could not be reasonable to expect one person to take proceedings on their own to stop it.  Instead, it was the responsibility of the community at large, and that was what had occurred in this case.  As such, the injunction was granted.

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