The King’s Lodging is a stunning Grade II listed building. There has been a building on the site for nearly a thousand years, but the present structure dates from possibly the fifteenth century. It stands in a third of an acre of ground. The house fronts directly on to Stour Street and there are gardens between the house and the river Stour. It is said that Henry VIII stood at the window facing the river on the first floor of the house to review his fleet before setting sail for the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
The claimants, Mr and Mrs Brookhouse, have owned the King’s Lodging since 1991 and never, until the carrying out of the EA's works, suffered damage from flooding. Since the works commenced in 2014, however, they suffered repeated incursions of river and tide water through the flood defence works and this they claimed, caused (and would continue to cause) extensive damage to the King’s Lodging and its garden.
The claimants' case was that water levels in the ground have been raised as a result of the EA's works so that the house has been damaged, and will deteriorate further, because its wooden frame is now standing in wet ground, and moreover that the garden has flooded and will continue to do so because of the works.
The EA alleged that groundwater levels had not been changed by the works, that the house had not been damaged by the works and would not deteriorate in future as a result of the works. As to the flooding, the EA's pleaded case was the flooding problem has been solved, but their expert hydrological witness agreed with the claimants' that inflows of water will recur at particularly high tides, although he maintained that that would not be a problem for the house or its garden.
After a six day trial, the Tribunal concluded that the claimants' hydrological expert was right that groundwater levels had been raised and that, as a result of his evidence and the evidence of the claimants' surveyor and structural engineer which detailed the damage to the property, the claimants’ case on causation succeeded. In reaching their conclusions on the hydrological evidence, the Tribunal commented that "the evidential tragedy in this case [was] that the EA did not carry out a hydrological survey before the work commenced". As the claimants submitted, the EA had "no baseline" on the basis of which to resist the claimants' case.
Now that causation is established, the quantum of the claimants' claim for compensation will be subject either to agreement or determination by the Tribunal in further proceedings.
Meyric Lewis KC together with Riaz Hussain KC of Atkin Chambers represented Mr and Mrs Brookhouse, instructed by Richard Flenley and Bella Suart-Bourne of Charles Russell Speechlys LLP.