Nuisance neighbours

Statutory nuisance

The Environmental Protection team at West Lindsey District Council is responsible for investigating all complaints of statutory nuisance under the legislation of The Environmental Protection Act 1990. The team can recommend and enforce standards, provide advice and guidance on a wide range of statutory nuisance issues within the district. Statutory nuisance can be investigated if being caused by a domestic or commercial premises with some exceptions.

As part of everyday living we all have to expect some problems from the people living around us. For example, everyone is capable of making noise when they go about their daily business, people can be affected by different types of noise in various ways. What may cause distress and irritation to one person may not bother someone else.

The behaviours of neighbours can be annoying but the Council can only take action where the activity is found to cause a statutory nuisance. This is where the nuisance is either frequent enough, severe enough or of significant duration so as to cause a material interference at somebody’s property.

We can only act where the problem comes from a premises and is either prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

A statutory nuisance can arise from:

Note: The transportation and disposing/burning of Commercial Waste is dealt with by the Environment Agency.

Agricultural noise, odour and crop burning

West Lindsey is a large rural district, therefore odour and noise from farming and agriculture is to be expected from time to time. Spreading is recognised as standard agricultural practice and prevailing winds can carry the odours from this activity some distance across fields and into residential areas.

However, there are codes of practice set down for farmers to follow to minimise nuisance from their actions for example when spreading manure or using bird scarers and these activities should always be undertaken in accordance with the best practice guidance:

This practice of incorporating manures and bio-solids into agricultural land and the spreading of pretreated sewage sludge is a lawful activity. Organic manure by its very nature can be odorous and is the main cause of complaint. However, the practice of stockpiling and then spreading of treated sewage sludge is controlled by the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989. This is regulated by the Environment Agency and overseen by Water UK and Ofwat. Sewage sludge is produced from the treatment of waste.

If there are unacceptable odours produced by spreading agricultural materials in a manner which does not follow the Code of Good Agricultural Practice, and, if there is evidence of best practice not being followed with the result that the smell is unreasonably intrusive, Environmental Protection may take formal action using statutory nuisance legislation. However, formal action will generally only be taken where informal intervention would not succeed or where there have been repeated incidents of failing to follow best practice. It is also important to understand that taking formal action against the farmer or contractor will not make the smell go away immediately.

We can only usually consider complaints where the odour is excessive and has persisted for a prolonged period of time after spreading has been completed (typically a week) or where there has been repeated incidents of failing to follow best practice.

It is illegal to burn cereal straw and stubble, and the residues of oilseed rape, peas and beans in the field unless:

  • it is for education or research purposes
  • it is in compliance with a notice served un the Plant Health (Great Britain) Order 1993 (such as to eliminate pests)
  • it is to dispose of broken bales and the remains of straw stacks

The burning of linseed residues is exempted from the ban.

Further information can be found at GOV.UK's burning crop residues restrictions and rules page.

What to do in the first instance

If at all possible it is better to initially discuss the problem with your neighbour, as often, an investigation by the Local Authority may lead to a serious breakdown in neighbour relations.

If you feel you can approach your neighbour regarding a potential problem be calm and polite. In most cases, people are unaware of the problem they are causing.

If the problem persists, contact West Lindsey District Council’s Environmental Protection Team for advice. Under Section 79(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 we must take “all reasonable steps” to investigate your complaint.

How do I complain about nuisance neighbours?

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Please contact the Environmental Protection team by using the Neighbourhood and Environmental Reports online form to proceed with an investigation into your complaint, the following information will be required:

  • Your name, address and phone number/email address
  • The details of the complaint
  • The address of the neighbouring property causing the alleged nuisance

The team will not investigate anonymous complaints.

Where possible, to assist the investigation, please supply any photographs/videos/sound recordings of the nuisance you are experiencing (date/time stamped if possible).

Action by Environmental Protection team

After you have made a request for service to Environmental Protection, an officer assigned to your service request will explain the procedure to be followed and will respond by writing or telephone within four working days of receiving your complaint.

We have a standard letter procedure for the initial stages of dealing with nuisance complaints. You will be sent a letter, together with a nuisance record sheet on which you should record any further incidents.

A letter will also be sent to the person you are making the complaint about.  This will give the person an opportunity to consider their actions and may well result in the problem you have been experiencing reduced to an acceptable leave. Any details you provide us with will be kept confidential.

If situation improves, you may wish to take no further action. The case officer will keep your request open for 28 days, after which it will normally be closed unless you have contacted us in the meantime.

However if the situation deteriorates you should complete the nuisance record sheet, as these will be needed as evidence, should the case proceed onto a more formal stage. These should then be returned to the case officer as soon as possible to assess if there is a potential statutory nuisance.

If the case officer is suspect nuisance that amounts to a statutory nuisance then the case officer will need to witness the disturbance by way of monitoring visits.  At this stage a formal second letter is sent to the person being complaint of.

If having witnessed the problem and officers are satisfied that a statutory nuisance is occurring, an abatement notice will be served on the person responsible for the nuisance. Failure to comply with such a notice is an offence and will usually result in prosecution. At this point it may be necessary for your name and address to be disclosed.

If officers do not witness a statutory nuisance then you will be advised in writing on how to pursue your own legal action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection

Complaints Made Outside Office Hours

Any enquiries/complaints made outside office hours will be responded to by the team within 4 working days.  If you are experiencing an extreme situation, please contact the emergency services by dialling 999.

Can I take my own action for nuisance without involving the council?

Yes, there are other ways to resolve statutory nuisance problems. 

You could try talking to them, or send a friendly letter; setting out what in particular is causing the problem or the time that it occurs or the length of time it goes on for. Most people can be reasonable, and very often a compromise can be reached that keeps everyone happy.

If this doesn’t work you could try a mediation service. You could also instruct a solicitor to write to your neighbour on your behalf.

Under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, you can take your own action and go directly to the Magistrates’ Court (you may want to first consult a solicitor or your local Citizen Advice Bureau). You will still, however, need to provide the evidence of statutory nuisance for the Court to rule in your favour and issue an abatement notice. The nearest Magistrates’ Court is in Lincoln.

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Environmental Protection
Housing and Environmental Enforcement

West Lindsey District Council
Marshall’s Yard
DN21 2NA
United Kingdom