Nuisances may arise from premises, smoke, fumes, dust, smell, artificial light or accumulations from waste

At some time or other, we may be affected by the activities of our neighbours, local businesses or agricultural practices. Only when this becomes unreasonable due to frequency or duration and interferes with the use and enjoyment of your property to be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’ does the Council have powers to take action.

What can you do?

In the first instance it is better to talk to the person and explain the problem. You may find that it can be resolved amicably and without the need for further action as they may not be aware of the problem. This has the additional benefit of avoiding the tensions that can arise after formal intervention by the Council. Approach the matter carefully if you think your neighbour might react angrily to a complaint.

What power does the Council have?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives the Council powers to deal with statutory nuisance, which may include:

• Premises in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
• Smoke or fumes from domestic or industrial premises; bonfires or chimneys
• Dust, steam, smell or other effluvia emitted from industrial trade or business premises, i.e. not domestic premises.
• Artificial light
• Accumulations or deposits such as domestic refuse, dog faeces etc.

The council cannot take action in the following circumstances:-
• The issue is not determined as being a statutory nuisance.
• An individual person is more sensitive or less tolerant to the smoke, odour or light.
• Reasonable activities or behaviours such as cooking or smoking odours from domestic properties.

Making a Complaint

For a complaint to be taken for investigation you must-
• Give us your name and address as anonymous complaints cannot be actioned.
• Know the address causing the problem.
• Provide detailed information in a diary sheet giving times, dates and a description of the issue and how it is affecting you.

The law is extremely complex and each case is individually assessed to establish whether the problem is sufficiently severe as to warrant legal action. The Council will investigate smoke, odour or light nuisance the same way as other nuisance complaints such as noise. The information in our Noise Complaints Policy is relevant to these statutory nuisance investigations

You can contact us on 0115 9072244 Ext. 3820 or email

Garden Bonfires and the Law 

see our Garden bonfire leaflet for more information

It is a common misconception that there are specific laws that only permit bonfires at certain times or days or that they are prohibited altogether. This is not the case and such controls do not exist. An outright ban would be difficult to enforce and occasionally a bonfire is the best practicable way to deal with some garden wastes.

However, the law does not permit anyone to create a nuisance from either smoke or fumes. Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp or green material is being burnt and may prevent neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out.

For smoke or fume emissions to be considered a statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a persistent problem which interfered substantially with someone's well-being, comfort or enjoyment of their property. If a fire is only an occasional event it is unlikely to be considered a nuisance in law. Similarly if bonfires are being lit by different neighbours, each burning occasionally it would be difficult to support an action for nuisance.

The Police enforce the Highways Act 1980 if anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road that endangers traffic.

Industrial and commercial bonfires

Dark smoke emissions from bonfires on industrial or trade premises are prohibited, except in a few limited special circumstances. 'Dark' smoke is a specific shade of grey defined in Clean Air legislation. It is also a specific offence to remove the insulation from wire and cable by burning it. Information can also be found in our Commercial bonfire leaflet.

Odour and Fumes

Odours to be carried long distances in the air means they may affect a large number of people. In certain circumstances odours can be a statutory nuisance. This depends on the frequency, duration, intensity and / or source.

Agricultural Odours

Most people accept agricultural odours as a part of being in the countryside.
For some a common source of odour complaints relate to the spreading of bio-solids (sewage sludge), animal manures (such as chicken manure) and slurries (muck spreading). Prevailing winds can carry these odours some distance across fields and into residential areas.

Spreading of all these waste materials is recognised as standard agricultural practice. As Erewash Borough contains areas of field and working farmland, such odour must be expected from time to time. Sewage sludge may cause more of an odour than other forms of bio-solids. This is the semi solid material left over from the sewage treatment process. It is a readily available and sustainable resource which contains valuable nutrients and trace elements essential to plants and animals.

It is not always possible to predict the expected duration or intensity of odours, as this can be dependent upon weather conditions but odours usually only last for a short period of time. Farmers are encouraged to use best practice whilst spreading on their fields.

When does spreading take place?

Spreading can only be undertaken in fair weather as ploughing in wet, cold or frozen ground is not feasible. The growing season dictates that most crops are harvested in summer. Ploughing in of manures follows almost immediately to replenish the soil ready for the following year. Unfortunately this means that spreading is most likely to occur at times when people will have their windows open or want to outside.
The process of spreading is a key factor in successful farming; unfortunately the weather and positions of their fields/crops dictate when farmers can spread.

Are farmers allowed to spread?

The spreading of bio-sludge, manure and slurry onto agricultural land is:-
• a lawful activity
• considered the best option for disposal and,
• recognised as a sustainable agricultural practice as it reduces the use of chemical fertilisers.

Without recycling in this way, these by-products would need to be disposed of in much less sustainable ways, for example by being sent to landfill. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published a Code of Good Agricultural Practice for Farmers, Growers and Land Managers. The code is a practical guide to help farmers protect the environment in which they operate. Whilst the code itself is not law, compliance with it can help farmers meet their legal obligations. The code provides advice to farmers on how to carry out their activities, such as spreading, whilst causing minimum nuisance to neighbouring properties.

Can the council take any action?

It is unlikely that action will be taken against agricultural odours in a country location, unless the odour is unreasonably excessive and is identified as being the result of bad agricultural practice.
For complaints to be investigated by the council it is necessary to provide details of:-

  • The duration of the odour.
  • The farm undertaking the spreading or as much detail of the source as possible.

If the source of the odour can be identified the farmer may be contacted and advised on best practice and encouraged to use it.

Artificial Light

Light shining into your property can be a nuisance and is best described as artificial light that illuminates or intrudes on areas not intended to be lit such as security lights. There is little in the way of formal guidance as to what constitutes legally actionable light nuisance. There is no fixed level which constitutes a statutory nuisance; individual circumstances differ and each case has to be judged on its own merits, including the duration and frequency of the light nuisance.

The Borough Council has no legal powers over general light pollution, for example of the night sky, only light that is causing a potential nuisance to an individual. Light nuisance does not include light emitted from premises used for transport purposes or where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons such as street lighting.

Preventing Light Nuisance

To minimise the risk of causing a light nuisance to neighbouring properties, please think about the following:
• Is the lighting necessary?
• Consider the hours or time of day that the lighting is on.
• Can the lights be adjusted to only illuminate the area required?
• Can the lights be directed downwards rather than shining horizontally?

Erewash Borough Council

Erewash Borough Council, Town Hall, Wharncliffe Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, DE7 5RP
0115 907 2244
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