Firm Admits Responsibility for Fly Swarms


Following protests from a Bristol residents group, a recycling firm in Avonmouth has conceded that a recent swarm of insects are its responsibility.

Environment Agency Inspector and Land Owner

Early in June, the Gloucester-based resource recovery company Boomeco admitted that it had neglected to contain fly swarms which had infested defective dockside biofuel bales in its charge.

Permissions Withdrawn

Since then, the firm has had certain operating permissions withdrawn by the Environment Agency (EA).

Although the problem was reported to the EA in May, locals say little has changed, with the flies seriously impacting many homes and businesses.

Local people are further worried about plans for an incinerator ash storage facility by Bristol Port Company (BPC), which has leased nearby land for this purpose. BPC has said that householders would bear the requisite home fumigation costs should the facility be approved.

What Does This Imply Legally?

These types of disputes are governed by ‘nuisance legislation’ which falls into two categories: public and private.

Public Nuisance

Public Nuisance legislation provides protection for ordinary people against any action that impacts their "reasonable convenience and comfort".

The public are safeguarded against instances such as dust shed from lorries, stray cricket balls and other everyday inconveniences.

Injunctions are often served on parties responsible for such nuisances by the public as a class – the term for a group of people in a legal action. However, if you are looking to sue for compensation or an injunction as an individual, you need to be able to prove that the damage you suffered was greater than that experienced by most of the other people affected.

Private Nuisance

If you are a landowner, Private Nuisance legislation is designed to protect you from "unreasonable interference with the enjoyment and use" of your property. Breach of these laws could entitle you to an injunction or to compensation.

There are a wide variety of cases involving nuisance, with plenty in the record books related to instances such as industrial plant smells inhibiting residents' outdoor garden leisure and sleep deprivation from noise and air pollution.

As for the above example of fly swarms, this potentially falls under the 'Private Nuisance' category. The situation appears to favour the residents who have been inconvenienced by Boomeco's failings. Provided an insect infestation is "not naturally occurring", previous cases suggests that claims are likely to be valid.

If you have a concern related to nuisance legislation and where you legally stand, a solicitor can guide you through the intricacies of the law as it stands.

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