Pollution control - nuisances

The Environmental Health Service investigates statutory nuisance. This is defined in legislation under section 79(1) of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990.

Bonfires

The law

There are no laws against having a bonfire but there are laws about causing a nuisance. Smoke or the smell of smoke from bonfires can cause a statutory nuisance. Visit GOV.UK for more information.

Guidance

When having a bonfire make sure you:
  • only burn dry material
  • never burn household rubbish, rubber types, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
  • never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light the fire or encourage it
  • avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening -  if it's windy, smoke may be blown into neighbours' gardens and across roads 
  • warn your neighbours if you are going to have a bonfire - they are less likely to complain

Reporting nuisance bonfires

It's always a good idea to try and resolve problems informally by politely letting your neighbour know if a bonfire has been causing a nuisance. In order to be a nuisance you would need evidence about the frequency of bonfires, duration and how they affect your enjoyment of your land.

If the problem persists you can report the problem to the Environmental Protection Team.

What happens next

We will inform the person responsible for the bonfire that a complaint has been made and provide advice on how to avoid further problems. 

The complainant will be asked to submit a diary of bonfire events should the problem persist.

If we receive evidence that the reported problems constitute a statutory nuisance, we are required to serve an abatement notice on those responsible under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. An abatement notice requires that any nuisance must be prohibited, and must not take place in future.

Failure to comply with an abatement notice is a criminal offence. It can result in a prosecution via a magistrates' court, with a fine of up to £5,000 imposed on those responsible. 

Taking your own action

Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows a person aggrieved by a statutory nuisance (including a smoke nuisance) to take their own legal action. There are four aspects to the procedure:

  • collecting the evidence and compiling a written record of 'events'
  • giving the person responsible for the bonfire at least 21 days' notice in writing of your intention to make a complaint to the court
  • making a complaint at the Magistrates' Court
  • court hearing

High hedges

An initial investigation fee of £201 will be charged when making a complaint to us. An additional fee of £595 will then be charged if we can proceed with the complaint. To find out more about dealing with a dispute about a high hedge please visit GOV.UK.

When you initially contact us please ensure you have:

  • evidence of communication such as letters or a diary of conversations
  • evidence of mediation
  • reasons why you believe the hedge is a nuisance and how it is affecting you

Light nuisance

To find out more about artificial light pollution and light nuisance please visit GOV.UK.

Filthy and verminous premises

We become involved where there is a risk to the health of the occupiers or to neighbours, carers or visitors. We try to address the issue sensitively and informally if possible but sometimes have to use legal powers to bring homes up to a reasonable standard.

You can find further information in the Public Heath Act 1936.

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