Statutory nuisance

Under Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 certain matters are declared to be ‘statutory nuisances’. They include the following:

  1. any premises in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  2. smoke emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  3. fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  4. any dust, steam, smell or other effluvia arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  5. any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance
  6. any animal kept in such a place or manner as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance

(fa). any insects emanating from relevant industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance

(fb). artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

  1. noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance

(ga). noise that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and is emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street [or in Scotland, road].

  1. any other matter declared by any enactment to be a statutory nuisance

Relatively few circumstances will be 'prejudicial to health' but 'nuisance' encompasses both public and private nuisances. Broadly, a public nuisance is any act which, without specific legal authority for it, results in an unreasonable reduction in amenity or environmental quality in a way common to several people at once. A private nuisance consists of damage arising from a substantial and unreasonable interference with another's use of their land or some right over it but in both cases, the context requires there to be something of a public health flavour in the consequences.

Local authorities have a duty under the Act to inspect their areas from time to time to detect statutory nuisances and to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to investigate any complaints of statutory nuisance made by persons living within their area. However they do so, where they find that a statutory nuisance exists or is likely to occur or recur, they must take some action to abate that nuisance.

That usually, though not always, means serving an Abatement Notice on the person responsible for the problem. Where the notice requires any work to be done, a reasonable period of time will be given to allow it to be carried out. Failure to comply with the notice after that time is a criminal offence, and the person could be prosecuted.

Further information and guidance can be found on the website of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Many local authority websites also contain information on statutory nuisance, explaining in more detail what the local authority can and cannot do and how to make a complaint.

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