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Process for Reporting Nuisance Odours

In simple terms, bad smells count as statutory nuisances if they interfere 'substantially' and 'unreasonably' with the enjoyment of homes or premises or if the stink may cause injury to health.

This section explains how to complain about a nuisance smell and how local councils investigate and assess toxic odours coming from business premises.

Problems that Can Cause a Nuisance Smell

The Environmental Protection Act 1990) contains legislation for complaints made about 'statutory nuisances' (e.g. bad smells from trade premises).

The law forces local councils to serve abatement notices whenever statutory nuisances are happening, have already happened, or are going to happen.

An abatement notice would require the person responsible, or the occupier or owner of the premises, to completely stop or restrict the odour.

Important: In the United Kingdom, statutory nuisance laws do not apply to bad smells coming from residential properties (e.g. smelly neighbours living within the community).

As a general rule, nuisance smells and toxic odours usually have some relationship with problems caused by:

The most common ways that unwelcome or hazardous smells escape from commercial buildings and industrial premises is through:

Note: Another section contains more information about the legal processes for settling disputes with neighbours, such as for bad smells and loud noises.

How Councils Assess Nuisance Smells

There are several methods used by local councils to assess (and then deal with) a nuisance odour from business, industrial, and trade premises.

First, they will try to work out whether the problem qualifies as a statutory nuisance, by considering where the smell is coming from, along with (any):

Note: People respond to odours and bad smells in different ways. Thus, assessing them for legal purposes is not always an exact science.

As a rule, the local council will use two (2) or more human 'sniffers' to try and detect the smell's strength, and:

Important: Changes in the local weather conditions and the wind direction may cause variations. Even so, the council might ask you to keep a smell diary and record your perception of the smell and how it is impacting your daily life.

Abatement Notices and Special Rules

In the worst cases, the council can serve an abatement notice on business, industrial, and trade premises. Even so, as long as they used practicable means to stop the stench (or reduce it), they may have an opportunity to (either):

Environmental Permits for Pollution Control

The Environment Agency (EA) uses environmental permits to help control some of the most hazardous smell nuisances. As a result, councils try to make sure people do not get penalised twice for carrying out the same activity.

Note: You can check if you need to get an environmental permit and how to make an application (e.g. to the Environment Agency).

Related Help Guides

Note: The master section contains information about the environment and countryside and how specific laws address the effects and impact that human activities have upon them.

UK Rules for Dealing with Statutory Odour Nuisances