Why owners of this new home won a case against the council over noisy traffic

The home is just metres away from the A446
The new build house can be seen to the immediate right of the image, with their garden fence right beside the road (Image credit: Google Maps)

A couple who bought a new build next to a dual carriageway has won a case against the local planning authority for granting permission for their house to be built.

Jackie McCormack and her husband James completed on the purchase of the three-bed new build in Coleshill, a small town in Warwickshire close to the city of Birmingham, in February 2021.

But after moving in they discovered that the 70mph A446 road beside the property was so noisy they couldn't sleep at night without using earplugs. 

They struggled to enjoy any time outside in their back garden due to lorries thundering past at speed and it being immediately adjacent to the road with only a small wooden fence separating them from the road. 

They also found the air pollution was so high that they couldn't open their windows, plus a bump on the dual carriageway made their house shake each time a "juggernaut" passed over it. It left them wondering how the house had received planning permission in the first place.

How noisy is the busy dual carriageway? 

Jackie says the heavy traffic noise starts at 5-5.30am and goes on until 8.30pm, while at weekends 'boy racers' go past at high speed. The fence is just nine feet away from the edge of the A446, a road that feeds onto both the M42 and M6.

She claims noise levels hit 85 decibels on a specialist decibel machine – a similar volume to using a power tool that usually requires ear protection – when a lorry goes past, and 120 outside, which similar to noise levels at a rock concert.

The pair claim they wear earplugs but the vibrations are so intense it makes their "bones rattle".

James works Rolls Royce and said the noise at their home is comparable to what he hears from jet engines at work.

So why did the couple buy their home?

The family previously lived in a larger Victorian home in a suburb of south Birmingham but had always dreamed about moving to a detached house.

The property came up for sale and they said they "fell in love with the house" so they jumped at the chance to buy the three-bedroom home for the price of £325,000.

The couple say they did not realise there was a problem when viewing the house before the purchase.

Didn't the family notice the road before buying?

The family viewed the property a total of seven times before completing the sale, but Jackie said the estate agents only arranged viewings on weekends when the road is much quieter.

After the story hit the media, the grandparents were mocked by online trolls who questioned the decision to move so close to a dual carriageway and be unaware of the risk of noise.

Mrs McCormack told the Sun Online: 'I knew it was a busy road — there's no getting away from that. I would be stupid if I didn't think it was a busy road. But this — how could I have known?' 

Why did the homeowners pursue the council rather than the building firm?

Jackie filed a complaint with North Warwickshire Borough Council and started proceedings over whether it was legal for them to grant planning for houses so close to the road. She did this by taking it up with the Housing Ombudsman. 

The building company were not liable as they had been given permission to build the home and built it in accordance with this.

In a report the Housing Ombudsman found the council had discharged conditions around noise "without seeing a noise assessment report" and did or could not show why one was not necessary, reports Birmingham Live.

Her complaint was upheld, with the Ombudsman highlighting that Mrs McCormack's "quality of life and mental health have suffered" because the council did not consider the noise issue.

David Hannah, group chairman of property tax advisors Cornerstone, said: “I don't believe that the developer could be sued — they constructed in line with the planning permission granted.

“I’m actually shocked that the planning authority permitted development so close to the road. Normally a buffer zone with sound deflection berms and trees etc to absorb noise is specified to ensure a reasonable noise level near major roads.”

North Warwickshire Borough Council offered to replace the windows – alongside other works – in a bid to resolve the issues. It said it had also "offered to work" with the couple to resell their home — if the works did not reduce the noise.

However the couple refused permission for the council to undertake the work.

A spokesperson from North Warwickshire Borough Council said: "The council has offered to implement the works that would have been required via the noise condition at its own expense.

"However Mr and Mrs McCormack have refused permission for this to happen."

What are the implications for other buyers who've purchased new builds near noisy roads?

David Hannah says the case could “absolutely” set a precedent for other cases where the council has not undertaken noise assessment or other due diligence.

Although he did add: “But, ultimately the people chose to move there and didn’t do any due diligence over noise in the locale. Surely their solicitor also should have seen this and pointed it out to them?”

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.