Attorney-General v PYA Quarries – Case Summary

Attorney-General v PYA Quarries

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1957] 2 QB 169; [1957] 2 WLR 770; [1957] 1 All ER 894;
(1957) 121 JP 323; 55 LGR 208; (1957) 101 SJ 338; [1957] CLY 2579.


The defendants were the owners of a quarry. They were accused of causing a public nuisance because of the widespread dust, vibration and projectiles coming from the quarry. As a result of a relator action brought by the Attorney General, an injunction was granted against the defendants.

After the defendant implemented safeguards to stop projectiles coming from the mine, they appealed against the injunction preventing them from causing dust and vibrations. They argued that, at most, their activities constituted a private nuisance: not a public one. This was because only a small number of people were affected: namely, twenty-eight houses, a farm and two highways.

  1. When does a nuisance go beyond private nuisance and become a public nuisance?

The Court of Appeal held in favour of the Attorney General. They held that the case constituted a public nuisance, because enough people in the community had been affected. The injunction had been correctly granted.

This Case is Authority For…

If a nuisance materially affects the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of a class of Her Majesty’s subjects, it is a public nuisance.

A public nuisance is one which can generally be described as affecting ‘the neighbourhood’ or ‘local community’. Whether sufficient people are affected to constitute a class of the public is a question of fact in every case.

It is not necessary to show that everyone within the class has been affected – just a ‘representative cross-section’.


Lord Denning declined to give a hard-and-fast rule for determining how many people must be affected to constitute the ‘a class of Her Majesty’s subjects’. He argued that a public nuisance is one which is:

[S]o widespread in its range or so indiscriminate in its effect that it would not be reasonable to expect one person to take proceedings on his own responsibility to put a stop to it, but that it should be taken on the responsibility of the community at large.’

Romer LJ noted that a legitimate way of establishing a public nuisance was to ‘prove a sufficiently large collection of private nuisances’.