Pollution control

This page provides information on how the council controls pollution and emissions.

Here you will find 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.
If you are concerned about statutory nuisance you can:
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 anti-social behaviour. Officers will still be able to give advice and investigate these matters as part of, or alongside, a nuisance investigation.
Construction site noise can be dealt with as a statutory nuisance.

However, the specific legislation, known as the Control of Pollution Act 1974, can be used to control construction site noise. The act applies to the following works:
  • erection, construction, alteration, repair or maintenance of buildings, construction and roads
  • breaking up, opening or boring under any road or adjacent land in connection with the construction, inspection, maintenance or removal of works
  • demolition or dredging works
  • any other works of engineering construction
The legislation allows the local authority to set out specific times for contractors to produce noise relating to construction or demolition.

These may be stringent times or could allow for operations at agreed hours if it’s shown the works cannot be carried out at any other time and the minimum amount of noise disturbance will be created.

An example of hours imposed could be:
  • Monday to Friday – 8am to 6pm
  • Saturdays – 8am to 1pm
  • Sundays/Public Holidays – prohibited
In order to provide greater control of building work, contractors should contact us before carrying out construction, piling and demolition work to find out about possible restrictions and to agree on suitable conditions.
Here you will find out the objectives of the council's pollution control inspections and regulations.

We have objectives in place to ensure the protection of public health and the environment. We also aim to increase public awareness of our pollution control service through advice, information, education and enforcement of legislation as well as:
  • fulfilling the council’s statutory duties in relation to industrial pollution control under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 and associated regulations
  • fulfilling the council’s statutory duties in relation to contaminated land under Part II A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and associated regulations
  • fulfilling the council’s statutory duties in relation to air quality management under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 and associated regulations
  • responding to public complaints and other requests, and investigating within service standards
  • working in partnership or in co-operation with the Environment Agency, primary care trust, Defra, other departments and external agencies
  • acting as a technical advisor for the council’s planning service
Here you will find information on the Clean Air Act approval for heights of industrial chimneys.

You will need to apply for approval of a chimney height if you intend to do any of the following:
  • construct a new chimney
  • increase the combustion space of an existing furnace
  • add a new furnace to an existing installation
  • change the fuel burnt in an existing furnace
  • replace a furnace with one having a larger combustion space
And the furnace or boiler burns any of the following:
  • pulverised fuel
  • any other solid matter at a rate of 45.4 kilograms per hour or greater
  • any liquid or gaseous matter at a rate equivalent to 366.4 kilowatts or more
A simplified guide is shown here.

Please fill out the form below to provide information to ourselves regarding the appliance to be installed:

NCC Biomass Boiler Information Request Form - February 2019 (210kb)
  • Useful Biomass Boiler/burner installation can be found on the Environment Protection UK website.
  • For more information on chimney height approval and the clean air act, please contact us here.
This section gives you information about protecting private water supplies, those that do not come from water suppliers, against pollution.

A private water supply is not provided by a water supplier and may come from a source such as a:
  • well
  • borehole
  • spring
  • stream
  • river
  • lake
  • pond
Mains-supplied water is treated to remove possible contamination, but most private water supplies are untreated. Therefore, it is essential the supply is maintained to minimise any risk to human health – whether the supply serves one property or many.

Northumberland has more than 1,000 private water supplies:
  • about 40% serve only one property
  • 40% serve more than one
  • 20% serve a commercial activity such as a pub, hotel or B&B
You should know the following information about your water supply:
  • Who is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance?
  • Where is the source?
  • How does it get to your property?
  • Is it treated in any way?
  • If so, is the equipment in good order and serviced regularly?
  • Should you get your supply checked?
The council may monitor the supply for chemical and bacterial quality under the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2009. The number of consumers and whether it’s used for commercial or domestic purposes affects how often it is tested.

If you think your supply is not up to a satisfactory standard, and you are concerned the supply may be affecting your health, you can either:
  • test it yourself at a private laboratory
  • request the public protection service to test it for you
Please note that charges vary depending on the analysis carried out. Read our private water supply charges leaflet 2019/20 for more information.
Here you will find information on the regulations of dark and black smoke created by industrial and trade premises.

Dark or black smoke emissions are usually produced by burning non-organic manufactured materials and items – in particular those containing carbon, such as:
  • plastics
  • tyres
  • foams
  • treated, impregnated and painted items (windows, doors)
  • glued and bonded items (particle board)
  • paints, resins and thinners
  • bituminous materials (roof felt, roof sealant) 
The creation of dark smoke from an industrial or trade premise is an offence under section 1 of the Clean Air Act 1993. A person found guilty shall be liable to a summary conviction and a fine of up to £20,000 for each offence.
Locations where the creation of dark or black smoke may be an offence include:
  • any land which is owned by a business
  • compounds/offices/workshops used for operating a business
  • farms
  • demolition sites
  • a home address burning materials generated from work
  • a home address where a trade or business is operating at, such as a builder
Any waste produced through normal business activity should be disposed of appropriately. Burning is not permitted and businesses that do so may be subject to investigation.

If domestic chimneys/flues are producing dark smoke, this can also be an offence and if found guilty you could face a fine of £1,000. If a person is operating a boiler or industrial plant furnace, the fine could be up to £5,000.

Dark smoke created by cable burning applies to any member of the public, not just industrial businesses. This is a specific offence under the Clean Air Act and is subject to a fine of up to £5,000 if convicted.
  • To report a smoke nuisance from a domestic property or non-dark smoke from an industrial or trade premises, please contact us here or:
  • If appropriate, we can take action for statutory nuisance.
The following information regards the use of environmental permitting in Northumberland.

Local Authorities regulate emissions to air from certain prescribed processes under The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, a responsibility initially introduced by The Pollution Prevention Act 1999.

The Council issues an environmental permit to the business operating the process, which contains conditions on how the business must be operated and control any emissions to air.

You must have an environmental permit if you operate a regulated facility in England or Wales. It is illegal to operate a prescribed process where an environmental permit would normally be required.

A regulated facility includes Part A(2) and Part B installations that are regulated by the Local Authority and Part A(1) installations that are regulated by the Environment Agency.
As a Local Authority, Northumberland County Council regulate Part A(2) and Part B installations, which are:
  • Installations or mobile plant carrying out listed activities
Part A(2) and B regulated facilities include:
  • Animal and Vegetable Processing – some food processing activities including rendering
  • Combustion and Incineration – boiler, furnaces and gas turbine producing 20-50Mw thermal output, crematoria, incineration of waste, animal carcass incineration etc.
  • Minerals – quarrying / surface coal mines, roadstone coating, storage of bulk cement, mobile crushing and screening, heavy clay and refractory products, manufacture of timber and wood products etc.
  • Metals - foundries, processing and treatment of metals, galvanising etc.
  • Organic Chemicals – fibre reinforced plastics
  • Petroleum and Powder Coating - unloading of petrol into storage, and motor vehicle refuelling, at service stations, manufacture of coating powder, bitumen and tar processes etc..
  • Solvents – coating of metals and plastics, respraying of road vehicles, rubber processes, printing flexible packaging, chemical treatment of wood, dry cleaning etc.
Further detailed descriptions of the listed activities can be found in Schedule 1 of The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

Part A(1) and A(2) permits control activities with a range of environmental impacts, including:
  • Emissions to air, land and water
  • Energy efficiency
  • Waste reduction
  • Raw materials consumption
  • Noise, vibration and heat
  • Accident prevention
Part B permits control activities which cause emissions to air.
Where a prescribed process operates within the bounds of the relevant guidance note then it is required by law to have an environmental permit issued by either the Local Authority of the Environment Agency.
If you require a permit from Northumberland County Council, you are advised to contact the Environmental Protection Team for an informal discussion before completing any application forms:

contacting us here

or by:

Email: public.protection@northumberland.gov.uk 

The permit your business requires depends on the specific processes involved and resulting emissions.
Permits for Part A(2) and B installations are issued by us. You can apply online or you can contact us and we will send you an application form.

Permits for Part A(1) installations are available from the Gov.uk: apply for an environmental permit. The A1 activities for which the Environment Agency is responsible for regulating are detailed in Schedule 1 of the Environmental Protection (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (As Amended) for issuing permits for the following activities:
  • Waste operations carried out at Part B installations
  • Waste operations or waste mobile plant carried on other than at an installation, or by Part A or Part B mobile plants.
  • Mining waste operations
You can apply online through the government Business Link website for a permit:
The application must be made by the operator of the regulated facility. For waste operations no licence will be granted unless any required planning permission has first been granted.
Fees set annually by DEFRA for applying for a permit, transfer or surrender, substantial change and annual subsistence.

Annual subsistence fees are required to maintain the permit, regulate the facility and general regulatory involvement. These are payable on an annual basis from 1 April each year. You will be sent an invoice for this once you have been issued a permit.

Subsistence fees become due when the permit is issued and will be pro-rata in the first year. For example, if your permit is issued in January, the subsistence fee will only be payable for the months of February and March and will be reduced accordingly.

If an operator is found without a permit then an application for a prescribed process operating without a permit will face an additional charge of £1,137 or £69 for a reduced fee activity.
The application forms require that you provide detailed information regarding your activities. Please ensure that this is given in sufficient detail. Where indicated on the form, it is acceptable for the information needed to be attached to your application as separate documents. If you choose to do this, you must ensure that the attachments and application form are clearly referenced.

Please note, that with all types of application, certain information is to be supplied as separate attachments as a matter of course. This information generally relates to any relevant additional information, site maps and plans etc..
We will pay regard to the protection of the environment taken as a whole by, in particular, preventing or, where that is not practicable, reducing emissions into the air, water and land.

We may inform the public of the application and must consider any representations.

We must be satisfied that the application is from the operator of the regulated facility and that the installation will be operated in accordance with the environmental permit.

If we need information from you that has not been provided, we will contact you to let you know. If this information is not then given to us within a reasonable time, the application will be deemed to be withdrawn. In such circumstances, the application fee will be returned to you along with any non-electronic documents you have given us.
It is in the public interest that we process your application before it can be granted. This means that you cannot assume your permit is granted just because you have not heard from us. Please contact us if you have not heard from us within 14 days of your application being submitted.

We aim to process an application (in terms of ensuring it is duly made) within 14 days of receipt. We aim to issue your permit(s) as soon as practically possible but in any case, within three or four months of a correctly made application (depending on type).
Please contact us in the first instance.

An applicant who is refused an environmental permit may appeal to the Secretary of State. Appeals must be lodged no later than six months from the date of our decision. Completed appeals should be made to:

Environment Appeals Team
The Planning Inspectorate
Room 3/25 Hawk Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay

Tel: 0303 444 5584

e-mail: environment.appeals@pins.gsi.gov.uk

Appeal documents can be downloaded from:

We request that you contact us with any grievance concerning your permit.

If an application to vary, transfer or surrender an environmental permit has been refused or if the applicant objects to conditions imposed on the environmental permit they may appeal to the Secretary of State.

Appeals must be lodged in relation to a regulator initiated variation, a suspension notice or an enforcement notice, not later than two months from the date of the variation or notice and in any other case not later than six months from the date of the decision.
Once permitted, an installation or process requires regular inspection by officers from the Environmental Protection Team. The frequency of inspection partly depends upon the type of installation or process permitted but is also dependent upon the risk rating determined from the inspection.

An installation or process is rated as HIGH, MEDIUM or LOW depending upon the score it achieves against a pro-forma for that process.

The risk rating is mostly influenced by how well the operator of the installation or process complies with the conditions in the permit. The risk rating is determined at the time of the inspection and applies to the following year.

The risk rating may influence the amount of annual subsistence paid in the following year.
Once permitted, an annual subsistence fee is payable to offset the management of the permit, carry out inspections and reviews, writing & reporting the permitted processes in Northumberland.

You will be invoiced annually for this after the 1st April each year.

A list of the current fees and charges is available here.

If eight unpaid weeks pass from the date the invoice is issued, there will be a late payment fee of £50.
For several years now, DEFRA have made provision for regulated facility which have a much reduced production. Where a prescribed processes has a threshold for requiring a permit and the business has fallen below that threshold but the operator wishes to retain their permit then they can apply to “mothball” their permit.

Where acceptance of an application for declaration of reduced operation has been granted by the Council, the operator of the regulated facility is entitled to a reduced annual subsistence charge of 40% of the full charge that is applicable for the financial year.

However where the declaration of reduced operation no longer applies within the first twelve months from when the application is received the company must retrospectively pay the full subsistence charge that would have been payable plus a £50 administration fee.
Enforcement - General

In order to achieve and maintain consistency, decisions about enforcement action will be taken having regard to the following legislation and guidance:
  • The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016
  • DEFRA Environmental Permitting General Guidance Manual on Policy and Procedures for A2 and B Installations
  • The Secretary of State’s Process Guidance Notes
  • Regulators’ Compliance Code
  • Code for Crown Prosecutors
  • Northumberland County Council Enforcement Policy
Permitted Facilities

Permitted facilities will be regulated through the regulations and the conditions contained within the permit for a facility.

Breaches of conditions, failure to comply with the permit and/or failure to pay relevant fees and charges will result in the following enforcement options:
  • An increase in the risk rating of the facility resulting in an increase in the annual subsistence fee.
  • A revocation or suspension of the permit making it illegal to operate the facility.
  • Legal action should any infringement be so severe or there is a lack of co-operation with operator.
Unregulated Facilities

The Council will actively seek operators of unregulated activities in order to ensure compliance with the EP Regulations. The responsibility for having the necessary permits and licenses to legally operate a buisness rests entirely with the operator.

If the Council finds, of is made aware of, an operator of an installation that does not hold a valid environmental permit and is required to do so by the regulations, whether knowingly or not, then we will contact the operator and request they make an application for a permit.

All facilities which are operating without a permit will be required to pay an additional fee for operating without a permit as permitted within the fees and charges schedule when they apply for a permit,

The Council may request information by formal notice at any time to clarifiy whether any facility or process  is operating in contravation of the regulations. If the operator refuses either to provide the requested information, or to apply for a permit, then the Council will refer the matter to the legal department for prosecution.

The submission of requested information or a permit application does not preclude the Council from taking additional formal action against the operator. If the unregulated installation is found to be causing harm to health or the environment then the Council will notify the operator that an offence has been committed. The operator will be requested to cease the operation until a permit application has been received from the operator and determined by the Council. If the operator fails to comply with section then the Council will refer the matter to the legal department for prosecution.
Mobile crushers are used in a wide range of industries including quarrying, ore processing and recycling of demolition waste.

If you wish to operate a mobile crusher within Northumberland and it was originally permitted elsewhere, you must contact us with the following information before use:
  • your company name
  • head office/base address
  • telephone
  • e-mail
  • approximate start and end dates of operation
  • location - try to be as precise a possible
  • local authority who issued your permit – this should be clearly stated on your permit
  • permit reference number – displayed on your permit
Email: public.protection@northumberland.gov.uk
Tel: 01670 623870
Fax: 01670 626059
Get in touch with the council if you have any pollution issues you think we can assist with.