Statutory nuisance

Under Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 certain matters are declared to be ‘statutory nuisances’. They include the following:

  1. any premises in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  2. smoke emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  3. fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  4. any dust, steam, smell or other effluvia arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  5. any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  6. any animal kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance

(fa). any insects emanating from relevant industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance

(fb). artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

  1. noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance

(ga). noise that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and is emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street [or in Scotland, road].

  1. any other matter declared by any enactment to be a statutory nuisance

Relatively few circumstances will be 'prejudicial to health' but 'nuisance' encompasses both public and private nuisances. Broadly, a public nuisance is any act which, without specific legal authority for it, results in an unreasonable reduction in amenity or environmental quality in a way common to several people at once. A private nuisance consists of damage arising from a substantial and unreasonable interference with another's use of their land or some right over it but in both cases, the context requires there to be something of a public health flavour in the consequences.

Local authorities have a duty under the Act to inspect their areas from time to time to detect statutory nuisances and to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to investigate any complaints of statutory nuisance made by persons living within their area. However they do so, where they find that a statutory nuisance exists or is likely to occur or recur, they must take some action to abate that nuisance.

That usually, though not always, means serving an Abatement Notice on the person responsible for the problem. Where the notice requires any work to be done, a reasonable period of time will be given to allow it to be carried out. Failure to comply with the notice after that time is a criminal offence, and the person could be prosecuted.

Further information and guidance can be found on the website of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Many local authority websites also contain information on statutory nuisance, explaining in more detail what the local authority can and cannot do and how to make a complaint.


▼ Artificial Light Nuisance 

Artificial light emitted from premises can in some circumstances become a statutory nuisance. This is usually where it is excessive in relation to its purpose or where the source of the lighting is poorly designed or directed. In many cases the problem can be solved by altering the direction of the light or by screening it.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 local authorities have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to investigate any complaints of artificial light nuisance made by their residents.

The following types of lighting are all covered by the Act

Domestic and commercial security lighting
Lighting at sports facilities
Exterior lighting of buildings and decorative lighting of landscapes
Laser shows /sky beams /light art

Some types of lighting are, however, excluded from the Act. These include lighting from premises used for transport purposes such as airports, bus stations or railway premises. Lighting from premises where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons such as prisons or defence establishments is also exempt.

From January 2013, the CIEH is collecting data from English local authorities on complaints about light from exempt premises. Local authorities can report complaints by clicking here. 

Members of the public concerned about light nuisance should contact their local authority

Further information and guidance on artificial light nuisance can be found on the website of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

 
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