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Noise nuisance from adjacent field frightening horses

Q. Our horses are kept in a field adjacent to a field of farmer’s crops and the farmer insists on putting out crow scarers (the ones that are on a string and burn through before banging very loudly every so often).  These have been put a mere 100 metres away from our boundary at times.  When they go off, they frighten the poor horses to death and they flee at great speed!  Obviously, when a horse flees through fear they bolt and if you are in the way, there could easily be an accident.

I have approached the farmer and explained the situation, but am afraid it has fallen on deaf ears.  I have even offered to make scarecrows for him!  I just wondered what our position is on this situation as it is becoming increasingly dangerous and frustrating.

A. Unfortunately there is no specific national legislation on the use of bird scarers like the one you have described.  However, there are some legal controls that have been used in circumstances where such devices cause problems.  These include:

  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (“the 1990 Act”) which enables local authorities to take action against a person who creates a noise nuisance including the service of an abatement notice upon the offending land owner prohibiting or restricting the use of the device or alternatively requiring the execution of such works to reduce the impact of the device. Failure to comply with a notice served under the 1990 Act may result in a prosecution, and potentially a heavy fine.
  • The Firearms Act 1968 also requires a firearms certificate to be obtained if bird-scaring cartridges are used.
  • The National Farmers Union have produced a Code of Practice for use of bird deterrents and bird scarers which is designed to minimize aggravation and it is recommended that farmers should follow this code.

You may also consider bringing a claim in private nuisance against the farmer.  Because of the nature of nuisance, the principal remedy for the claimant has been an injunction requiring the defendant to stop the nuisance from continuing. Damages are generally awarded to compensate for the period before the injunction is obtained. The object of damages is to place the claimant in the position they would have been had the nuisance not occurred, as far as possible. Where there is physical damage then the measure is for the costs incurred in the remediation of that damage, and any loss in value of the land if not remediable. This may include veterinary fees in the event that any of your horses were to sustain an injury as a result of being spooked by the device.

You should be aware that a delay in asserting your rights could potentially prevent you from bringing a claim.

For more information on this or or any other equine legal issue, please contact Caroline Bowler on 0115 9 100 237 or send her an email.

Posted on July 20, 2016

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