What is Statutory Nuisance?
Section 79 of the Environmental
Protection Act 1990 lists the issues that can be dealt with as
- Premises or animals kept in a poor
- Noise - such as barking dogs,
crowing cockerels, music and stereo equipment etc.;
- Dust, Steam and Odour from non-domestic premises - including
muck-spreading, construction sites etc.;
- Smoke - from bonfires or chimneys (but not from domestic
chimneys in a Smoke Control Area; this is controlled under the
Clean Air Act 1993);
- Light - pollution and glare from outdoor lighting;
- Insects - such as those associated with sewage works and
- Accumulations and deposits of waste materials;
- Certain other prescribed matters.
These problems become statutory
nuisances when they could be considered to unreasonably
interfere with the use or enjoyment of another property; the
problem must occur regularly and continue for a period of time that
makes it unreasonable.
If the Council is to act on a
complainant's behalf, it is the investigating officer, not the
complainant, who decides whether a particular complaint may be
considered a statutory nuisance. The officer must decide if,
on the basis of their experience and knowledge, a 'reasonable
person' would find the problem unacceptable; unfortunately,
officers cannot therefore usually deal with complaints from those
who have a different or higher expectation of environmental
What is Statutory Noise Nuisance?
Noise is often described as
'unwanted sound'; unfortunately, what one person finds an enjoyable
sound, another person may find disturbing or unpleasant.
Common problem noises include:
- Stereos and televisions;
- D.I.Y. and repairs;
- Lawn mowing;
- Vacuum cleaners and washing machines;
- Animals such as cockerels and barking dogs;
- Vehicle and
- Factory machinery and operations;
- Roadworks and construction.
Most noise is not subject to a
maximum noise level (decibel level) or time limit. Each case
must be judged on its merits taking into consideration factors such
The following kinds of noise are unlikely to be
considered a statutory nuisance:
- A one-off party;
- Neighbours arguing;
- A lawnmower used during the daytime;
- A baby crying or dogs barking occasionally.
The Council has no legal powers to control the following kinds
- Road traffic on the public highway;
- People shouting/laughing or screaming on a public road or
- Air traffic noise.
How are complaints about
statutory nuisances and noise investigated?
If you feel that you are suffering
unnecessary or unreasonable levels of noise or nuisance there are a
number of things you can do. Firstly, it may be helpful to
speak to the person responsible for the nuisance before taking any
other action. People often do not know that they are causing
a problem and this approach may help to solve the problem at a more
The Council's Environment Unit is
responsible for looking into complaints of noise and nuisance and
can provide advice and information on dealing with it. We aim
to investigate all complaints in an efficient and thorough
manner. In most cases, our investigation will involve the
Brief details of the complaint will
be taken. In most cases, we need to take the complainant's
name and address; anonymous complaints generally cannot be
investigated, but all information is treated confidentially.
We will usually send the
complainant record sheets to enable them to keep a written
record of the problem. This record helps the Council decide
if the issue is likely to be considered a statutory nuisance and
may also be used as evidence in Court at a later date. If a
complainant is unable to complete record sheets, the investigating officer will
try to arrange to gather evidence in another way.
A Council officer who is competent
to assess noise and statutory nuisance complaints will investigate
the complaint and try to resolve it informally if at all
possible. The officer will contact the person being
complained about and advise them that the Council has received a
complaint. They will be made aware of the legal powers
available to the Council if they are found to be causing a
statutory nuisance. At this stage, the Council will not
release the identity of the complainant to the person being
complained about, unless by agreement; however, the complainant
will be required to attend Court if the Council decides to take
Complainants will be asked to
contact the office again if there is no improvement within 14
days. The problem will then be assessed at the times shown in
the record sheets and usually up to three visits can be made.
What happens if the problem
IS considered a statutory nuisance?
If the investigating officer
believes the problem is a statutory nuisance, the Council will
consider taking legal action on your behalf. It is likely
that the person being complained about will be served with an
Abatement Notice under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection
Act 1990. If the person being complained about does not agree
with the Notice and appeals or does not comply with the
requirements of the Notice, the complainant and other witnesses
will be required to give evidence in Court.
What happens if the problem
IS NOT considered a statutory nuisance?
Section 82 of the Environmental
Protection Act 1990 gives complainants the power to take
independent action through the local Magistrates' Court to deal
with noise and nuisances where:
the Council considers that the
problem is not a statutory nuisance;
the Council cannot obtain enough
evidence to serve an Abatement Notice or to prosecute; or
the complainant does not wish to
involve the Council in resolving the complaint.
A separate Guide providing advice
and information on taking independent legal action using section 82
powers is available here.
In 2012, we dealt
with 226 complaints about statutory nuisances
and 434 complaints about noise.
In addition to dealing with
complaints about noise and statutory nuisances, officers also
provide advice on, and enforcement of, noise and nuisance issues
relating to planning and licensing applications.
In 2012, we gave advice
on 168 planning applications
and 264 licensing and public event
Last updated: September