This section provides information on how to report a nuisance relating to noise, odour, light or smoke.
The law on statutory nuisance relates to the behaviour of a person on their property, which interferes with another person’s enjoyment of their property. Details are set out in part three of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The act includes powers to deal with unreasonable noise, odour, smoke, accumulations and light from both neighbours and businesses.
Noise from construction and demolition sites are dealt with in a different way, so see this webpage.
Garden Fire and the Law
The law generally allows people to have a bonfire at any time of the day providing that the smoke given off from the fire does not cause a ‘statutory nuisance’ to other people's premises.
The law relating to statutory nuisance is set out in The Environmental Protection Act 1990 s.79 - s.80.
In assessing nuisance officer would look to the severity of the problems the fire was causing for example the amount of smoke created, where it was drifting and the effects it was causing in other people’s property. Additionally we would consider how often the problems occur and how long they go on for when they do occur.
Generally for a nuisance to be suffered the smoke from the bonfire must affect other people's premises to such an extent that normal use of those premises is not possible. Conditions that may give rise to a statutory nuisance could be:
- smoke entering people's houses
- smoke blowing across gardens and preventing normal use of the garden
- smoke affecting people's washing or
- hot ash and cinders landing on people's property.
Additionally, where the effects of the fire have a detrimental, unreasonable and persistent effect on a locality they could be classed as anti-social behaviour and action such as a Community Protection Notice could be taken under the Police, Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2014.
Under the Highways Act 1980 a person responsible for lighting a fire which causes smoke to drift across a road faces a fine if it endangers traffic. (Please contact the Police for further information if these circumstances arise).
The Council would normally discourage the use of garden fires for disposing of waste as there are several more appropriate methods.
Click on the link for further information on disposing of household waste, bulky waste, hazardous waste and garden waste
. There is also information on composting and recycling.
What you can do
If you are concerned about statutory nuisance you can:
- Talk to the person causing the problem, as they may be unaware the behaviour is disturbing you.
- Contact specialist officers at the council who can advise you and investigate the matter if necessary.
Investigations into nuisances will assess:
- how severe the problem is
- how often it occurs
- how long it lasts for
You will normally be required to complete a log or diary for a period of two to three weeks to prove these details.
Officers will assess the diary to decide if the problem requires further investigation. If so, efforts will be made to try and obtain more detailed information. This will be by installing equipment to record the problem or visiting your property to see it first-hand. If the problem is very severe, officers will attempt to visit the property more quickly.
This information will then be assessed to decide if the problem is serious enough and whether there is sufficient evidence to deal with the matter as a statutory nuisance. If so, the person responsible will be given a legal notice which requires them to stop or reduce the activity to a level where it does not cause a nuisance. This could be effective immediately or by a notice period.
The person who receives the notice has a legal right to appeal against it. Therefore, officers need to be able to provide evidence in court, such as results of monitoring, log sheets or witness statements.
If a problem is found to not be a statutory nuisance, officers will discuss approaches to improving the situation. However, this is an informal process and does not require the person responsible to participate. You can obtain independent legal advice on this matter.
In some cases, statutory nuisance is only one aspect of a problem that could include abusive, threatening or antisocial behaviour. Officers will still be able to give advice and investigate these matters as part of, or alongside, a nuisance investigation.