Q: Our neighbours stand five stallions at their stud. They are turned out in two adjoining fields to us — one of which is adjacent to our driveway.

This means we have to ride our mares past cavorting stallions to exit our property and we have already had one nasty accident doing so.

Our local environmental protection officer, who maintains the neighbours aren’t running a business, says the Environmental Protection Act offers us no protection.

He suggests we build a new drive to our property, or lead our horses down and mount them on the main road.

How can we protect ourselves legally, so we can ride our horses safely on our property?
CL, Somerset

According to the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI), it is the duty of local authorities to regularly inspect their area for any statutory nuisances.

These include criminal offences that affect local people, such as animals, actions or noises that are prejudicial to health, or become a nuisance — whether the “nuisance” is instigated by businesses, or private individuals such as your neighbours.

OPSI stated that local authorities must decide what steps are “reasonably practicable” to investigate complaints made by a person living within its area, and assess which statutory nuisances ought to be dealt with.

According to solicitor Richard Brooks, partner in the racing and bloodstock division of law firm Withy King, it is difficult to see an immediate solution.

“Privately, the only remedy may be to sue for compensation after the proverbial horse has bolted,” Richard said. “However you’re right to consider the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which regulates pollution and ‘nuisances’.”

Section 79 of the Act specifically includes within the definition of a statutory nuisance, “any animal kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”, and section 80(1) of the Act states that “where a local authority is satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists, or is likely to occur or recur, it shall serve an abatement notice”.

Richard said: “As you have discovered, getting the local authority on your side is sometimes easier said than done, but I do not know why they are suggesting the neighbour must be a business before the Act can be employed for protection — abatement notices can be served on any person.

It may simply be that the Act is thought to be designed for larger scale problems, but this situation is understandably significant for you and your partner. I suggest persevering with the local environmental protection officer.”

Information

Withy King, tel: 01225 425731 www.withyking.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (29 January, ’09)