Thursday, 8 December 2011


Residents win epic court battle against Thames Water over Mogden

ICG leads protest against Mogden expansion in 2009
Thousands of residents are celebrating after the High Court today ruled in their favour at the culmination of their epic battle against the water giant and the odour nuisance that it has continued to inflict upon our community with the timid, indeed sometimes willing, acquiescence of the London Borough of Hounslow.

Mr Justice Ramsay upheld the claim by 1,350 litigants from Isleworth, Hounslow, Whitton, St. Margaret's and Twickenham that Thames Water was liable for breach of duty in relation to odour nuisance from its Isleworth-based Mogden plant.

The judge also found that Thames had breached claimants' human rights under the Human Rights Act, in particular Article 8 of the Convention which protects the enjoyment of home and family life.

Scandalously, legislation due to be introduced by the government will prevent communities from instigating actions such as this one in the future without accepting prohibitive financial risk.

Nevertheless right now is a time for rejoicing, and for expressing my sincere thanks to all those residents who have worked painstakingly through the Mogden Residents' Action Group over many years to bring this about, often in the face of infuriating obstruction, procrastination and betrayal from those upon whose support we should have been entitled to rely.

MRAG and the ICG will consider the full implications of the Council's handling of the Mogden issue and of its attitude towards campaigning residents during the coming weeks.

The full Press Statement released today by Steve Taylor of MRAG is as follows:

Residents successful in ‘David & Goliath’ battle

After a long and arduous fight, 1,350 residents living near Mogden Sewage Treatment Works in Isleworth, Middlesex have won their mammoth battle against Thames Water Utilities Limited in relation to odour nuisance. The residents live in an area which comprises Hounslow, Whitton, Twickenham and St Margarets as well as Isleworth.

At the High Court today (8 December), Judge Mr Justice Ramsay handed down the judgment which holds Thames Water liable for breach of duty in relation to nuisance caused by odour from the Mogden plant. In relation to allegations of negligence surrounding their management and operation at the Works, Mr Justice Ramsey significantly found that Thames Water had, since 1990, failed to have a long term odour management and investment strategy to deal with odour from the site.

Mr Steve Taylor, one of the lead claimants, says: “I hope this case shows that David can take on Goliath in our legal system and win. The case was never about money; it was about holding Thames Water to account for the problems that it has caused us over the last 10 years. The huge impact on ordinary people's lives and on the environment cannot be underestimated. I am extremely grateful to Neil Stockdale and the Environment team at Hugh James as well as our Counsel, Stephen Hockman QC and John Bates, for relentlessly pursuing this case on our behalf. I believe this case is the first of its kind in the UK and the judgment in our favour will have a major influence on the way the managers and owners of sewage treatment works in England and Wales run their businesses"

Although this is a significant victory for the residents, the stark warning is that happy endings like this one might not be possible in the future. The Government plans to change legislation, effectively ending the current ‘no win no fee’ system, exposing claimants to huge upfront financial risks rather than being allowed to recover fees at the end if successful. This will lead to claimants having to take responsibility for both their own expenses and the other side’s costs.

Mr Taylor continues: “I’m shocked and very disappointed about the Government’s plans to change this legislation. The stature and financial clout of Thames Water meant we were only able to take this case forward because of the current ‘no win no fee’ system. Changing this system will deter others in similar situations to ours from bringing cases against big companies and will be a real obstacle for ordinary people to access justice. I would ask the government to think very carefully about the effect that this might have on people’s lives.”

Neil Stockdale, the partner at Hugh James who led the team dealing with the case said, “This result is a vindication of the residents’ genuine desire to protect their environment from blight. Unfortunately however, cases like this will no longer be possible in the future if the Government’s proposed reforms to the funding of litigation are enacted next year.

“The Government is proposing that individuals take cases like this at their own risk; people just can’t afford to take such risks, particularly when they are up against the likes of Thames Water. If people don’t stand up now and oppose the Government's bill they will forever be powerless to take action to protect their legal rights in all sorts of cases. What the Government is suggesting is a real scandal and the biggest threat to access to justice we have ever witnessed in the UK.”

Damages were sought against Thames Water for nuisance caused by odour and mosquitoes but claimants also sought for an injunction to prevent continuing nuisance. Today, the Judge has accepted 18 of the 30 allegations of negligence that were made in addition to finding that Thames Water had breached the claimants’ rights under the Human Rights Act, specifically Article 8 of the convention which protects the enjoyment of home and family life.

The Judge said that the claimants had been caused to suffer significant inconvenience and annoyance from odour over and above that which was inevitable.

In relation to Human Rights, High Court Judge Mr Justice Ramsay says of his decision: "Because I have held that Thames Water failed to carry out the work and conduct the operation at Mogden Sewage Treatment Works with all reasonable regard and care for the interests of other persons, including the claimants, it follows in my view that Thames Water failed properly to respect the rights of claimants and did not do all they reasonably could to prevent odour from migrating from the Mogden Sewage Treatment Works. They did not do what they should have done as a public authority in relation to the rights of the claimants".



Anonymous said...

This opens a HUGE can of worms !

Just off the top of my head, I guess this means that expansion was approved on the strength of flawed testimony.

Anonymous said...

Are you Planing to run for 2014 elections ? seems to me it is the case

Phil Andrews said...

Me personally or the ICG?

And why please does it seem to be the case?

Anonymous said...

your running a story no one care about

Phil Andrews said...

And that is a reason to assume I/we will be running for election?

Weird logic.

Anonymous said...

Weird Logic ? yes definitely heard rumours you might turn labour

Phil Andrews said...

Even weirder logic I'm afraid. Any clues as to where these rumours may emanate from?

Anonymous said...

you are clever enough to figure this out by yourself good night

Ps...anyway nice article and well written

Betrayed said...

Makes the SDC's capitulation all the more galling, doesn't it ?

With this high court verdict pending, they surely had good enough grounds to defer the application to expand, how ever long it took.

Waiving the plan through regardless defied all logic.

TW got their own way without having to put their house in order first.

Phil Andrews said...

It's actually worse than that Betrayed, because the reason residents didn't get the injunction they were seeking was because work was in motion (the expansion) which Thames claimed would rectify the odour problem anyway. So the chief officers at Hounslow and their gormless SDC have screwed the residents over well and truly.

Now Thames can continue to ignore the odour problem knowing that Hounslow officers have no intention of holding them to account and residents cannot launch another no win, no fee action due to impending government legislation effectively taking away the rights of the small claimant.

However there are some caveats, one being that if they were to continue being negligent and disregarding the local community it would be open to any resident with personal means (and there must be some somewhere) to take a private action against Thames, and with this case as a precedent winning such an action would be close to assured.

Anonymous said...

"Now Thames can continue to ignore the odour problem..........."

Sounds as though this wasn't much of a "Victory !" after all.

Phil Andrews said...

Sounds as though this wasn't much of a "Victory !" after all.

You didn't get as far as the caveat then?

Anonymous said...

Yes she got as far as the caveat. She just can't figure out how residents can achieve something like this all on their ownsome, hence the bitterness and clutching at straws. Don't let your understandable anger at the two faced Tories lead you to lose sight of the fact that Labour control mania is still our community's number one threat.

Anonymous said...

By the way I heard the rumour too about you getting close to Labour and I think it's a little bit more than just a rumour. Don't do it, you've already been mugged off by one lot I'm sure you've got too much sense to let the others do it also.

Curious said...

Phil, would I be right to speculate that when expansion is complete, the original abatement notices will be rendered invalid ?

After all, could any constraints imposed on the 'old' Mogden site be reasonably applied to a much bigger 'new' site ?

Surely new notices will have to be served and ones which take into account the plants' significantly increased size.

If this is the case, can you see a Labour administration doing this ?

Speaking of which, any idea why the old post office has been displaying a "Vote Labour" poster for weeks on end ?

A splendid ruby red, bow-tie/caveat twin set combo will be up for grabs at the carol service for the most convoluted conspiracy theory.

Anonymous said...

ICG were mugs to ever expect any support from the Tories on the SDC. Both major parties locally and the council department in Thames Water's pocket, Thames Water even heard boasting about the fact. I saw the SDC meeting on the interweb and I have never seen such a calculated farce. I hope you've kept a recording and that you have given a copy to your solicitors something definately fishy at that meeting.

Anonymous said...

"I hope you've kept a recording and that you have given a copy to your solicitors something definately fishy at that meeting."

The solicitors have indeed got copies of the SDC's webcastes. Although LBH didn't want to hand them over, Cllr Andrew Dakers forced it out of them and them over. Its good comedy and shows up a bunch of inept Tories and a useless Chair of SDC and a Tory Lead Member for Environment who couldn't snuggle up any closer to the Thames Water Director.

Anonymous said...

Well, I see our friends at Mogden are now bending over backwards to extend the hand of friendship to the local peasants.

On Thursday 26th January, they will be holding a special presentation/public meeting at the Bridgelink Centre, Ivybridge between 5-6.30pm.

What do you mean, most people are on their way home from work then ?