Nuisance can broadly be defined as something that affects somebody's use and enjoyment of their home and property.

While a private nuisance can refer to almost any situation, a statutory nuisance is one which has been expressly defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990). Unlike private nuisance, statutory nuisances can be dealt with by a council on behalf of an individual. There is no charge for this service.

The EPA 1990 is very specific about what does and does not constitute a statutory nuisance. Common complaints not included under the EPA 1990 (and therefore not able to be dealt with by the council) are traffic noise, people talking or shouting in the street and untidy verges.

Noise is the most frequently complained of nuisance issue. We can deal with both domestic and commercial sources and have equipment to both measure and record noise if necessary.

Issues controlled using statutory nuisance law include:

  • Noise (including noise from intruder alarms)
  • Premises
  • Light (from badly adjusted floodlights, for example)
  • Air pollution and smoke (from domestic, commercial or industrial premises)
  • Odour (commercial premises only)
  • Dust and steam (commercial premises only)
  • Accumulations
  • Animals (click here for pest control advice)
  • Insects (from relevant industrial, trade or business premises)

Nuisance is very much a property-based issue. For example, an issue that disturbed you while walking on a public footpath, could not be a statutory nuisance to you.

Other issues that are not classified as statutory nuisances include:

  • Aircraft noise
  • Domestic odours (like cooking smells)
  • Normal road noise

In such cases, whilst we will not be able to take formal action we may be able to give you advice or suggest your best course of action.

Managing complaints

In the first instance, if it is possible, it is better for people to talk to the source of a problem. They may not know they are causing a nuisance and a reasonable approach can often get a reasonable response. We investigate all reports of nuisance and often find that a discussion with everybody involved or notification from us to the alleged source is enough to solve the problem. Where issues are not quite so easily resolved, we will try and witness what is being complained about so that a professional judgment can be made about whether the problem fits within the terms of statutory nuisance legislation.

Complaints are confidential although we cannot prevent the source from making guesses about the identity of the complainant.

The council receives many complaints of nuisance each year and it is the responsibility of the investigating officer to determine whether the complaint is justified. What may be a nuisance to you, may not be a nuisance to someone else as a third party. The council is able to act in an unbiased manner to determine whether the complaint constitutes a statutory nuisance.

In the first instance we will send letters to both the complainant and the source of the nuisance, and this initial contact will hopefully resolve the issue. If the nuisance persists, you will be asked to fill in a diary sheet so that we can establish whether your complaint will constitute a nuisance. A diary sheet which must be filled out over a period of at least two weeks and must include a description of the nuisance and the time and duration of occurrence. If the investigating officer deems that your evidence could constitute a nuisance, we may conduct monitoring or install recording equipment in your property in order to gather further evidence which would allow us to take action

If a statutory nuisance is established, an abatement notice is served on whoever is responsible. Breach of an abatement notice is a criminal offence and can result in prosecution in the magistrates' court. There are other sanctions available in certain cases, for example in cases of domestic noise nuisance, it is possible to obtain a warrant from the magistrates and seize noise-making equipment.

Further information

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health