In recent years, a subculture has developed that has caused property owners and property developers particular concern. Known as urban exploration or urbex, this subculture includes the exploration of buildings and other human-made structures. Construction sites are particularly attractive to urbexers and many climb cranes and scaffolding, recording their exploits to share on social media. Many urban explorers will pursue increasingly extreme and dangerous exploits in order to boost their social media fame.
It is notoriously difficult and costly to try and secure a site against urban explorers, and as such, property developers have faced many challenges in trying to prevent this type of trespass. Property developers can take some comfort in the pragmatic and timely manner the High Court has dealt with urban exploration in a recent case.
Injunction granted against urbexers
In Canary Wharf Investments v Brewer  EWHC 1760 (QB), the Claimants applied for an injunction to restrain trespass at their Canary Wharf construction site and an order to prevent existing footage from being further published; requiring the footage to be delivered up to the Claimants. The injunction included named urbexers, including Rikke Brewer, who is well known among urbex circles, and unnamed urbexers.
In granting the injunction, the High Court provided useful clarification in relation to injunctions and the realities of urban exploration. The High Court found that certain difficulties that are a feature of trespass by urban explorers should not preclude the issuing of an injunction. Consequently, the High Court found that difficulties with enforcement do not justify the refusal of an injunction. Similarly, the High Court found that an injunction can be granted against persons unknown if the Court is satisfied that there is a significant risk of unknown others carrying out the offending conduct.
Generally, the intention of urban explorers is not to damage property. However, the High Court confirmed that a landowner is entitled to an injunction to restrain trespass whether or not the trespass causes damage.
In the case, some defendants appeared in person and some did not attend and were not represented. The High Court found that without evidence that a defendant may have the right to carry out their activities, an interim injunction will usually, if not invariably, be justified.
Property developers should take some comfort in the High Court’s pragmatic approach to this new type of trespass. However, the difficulties of enforcement of any judgment against urban explorers should not be underestimated. An important part of urban exploration is the prize of social media fame through video footage of the exploration. Even if that footage is delivered up by the defendants in accordance with an order from the Court, it does not mean that that footage will not appear on social media sites.
Keeping site safe and secure
Similarly, the High Court’s approach in this case does not relieve property owners of the responsibilities to keep properties, particularly, the boundaries secure. It is also important for property developers to ensure, as much as possible, that their construction sites are left in as safe a state as possible to mitigate against the risk of injury. Similarly, property developers will need to ensure that their security staff are well versed in the law in relation to the rights of individuals including in relation to assault and false imprisonment.
Disclaimer: While we do all that is possible in terms of ensuring its accuracy, this blog contains general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal problem or matter
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