Complaining About Smell PollutionIf you have a nasty niff in the neighbourhood or perhaps a nuisance neighbour causing a stench, then there are procedures in place by which you can complain.

The Personal Approach

If the bad smell is being caused by a neighbour, then in the first instance, a polite, personal approach is usually best. Unless you fear an aggressive reaction, popping round and raising the problem in a friendly manner often sorts things out. Most people have no idea that there is a problem and are totally unaware that they might be offending people. They are often happy to resolve things and might even thank you for pointing out the problem!

If you don’t seem to be getting anywhere with this approach, then make a note of the date and time of your conversation and follow it up with a more formal letter in writing – but remember to keep it polite.

If a second or third follow-up letter doesn’t provoke a solution, then give fair warning to the person or company that you will be contacting the council.

Involving The Council

Your local Council has a responsibility to investigate all complaints about odour under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

If the problem is coming from an individual or household, they will visit the property and try to determine the cause of the smell. They will also speak to the householders and help them solve the issue.

If the problem is being produced by a local business or industry, then the Environmental Health team will determine whether the smell constitutes a Statutory Nuisance under the Act and whether they need to offer advice on good practise for minimising the odours or impose regulatory sanctions.

Complaining To The Council

If you have tried and failed with a personal and friendly approach to the neighbour or local business causing a problem, then your next step is to make a formal complaint to the Environmental Health Services of your local authority.

Write to the department with as much detail as possible as to the nature of the smell, the times and days it occurs and the effect it has on your life. You should also state what action you have taken so far.

An Environmental Health Officer will then be likely to ask you to keep a diary of exactly when the smell occurs, for how long it is present and perhaps the ‘strength’ or nuisance factor it causes each time. For instance if it is a beautiful sunny afternoon and you wish to be in the garden but find it uncomfortable because of the smell, then this would create more of a nuisance than if the weather were bad and you stayed indoors. All such factors are taken into consideration and help decide if the smell is to be ‘expected’ (and put up with, or if it can be classified as a statutory nuisance and action taken.

Investigation By Environmental Services

The Environmental team will visit the site causing smell pollution and if identified as a nuisance, will implement steps to reduce or solve the problem.

Part of their decision will be based upon whether the smell is deemed ‘expected’. For instance, each year, many people complain about agricultural smells and particularly odours from muck-spreading by farmers. However, while advice is given to farmers to help minimise the nuisance to the local community, it is considered that these smells are temporary and an expected by-product of living in the country.

In other cases, a foul-smelling industry, such as poultry manure farms, rendering plants or sewage works, may have a special licence or planning permission stating that the odour emitted is under Industrial Pollution Control, in which case further investigations will need to be done in conjunction with other parties. It may be just ‘bad luck’ if you live near such an outlet.

However, for any smell which is persistently causing a nuisance is not an expected outcome of a licensed industry, it is affecting the enjoyment of your property and/or can be shown to be prejudicial to health, the council has powers to take action.

Remedial Sanctions

If the Council has found the smell to be a statutory nuisance, then they have the powers to serve an Abatement Notice on the person(s) or company responsible.

Sometimes, if not already in place, the Environmental Officer can ask that Best Practicable Means are put in place, which means that if there are things that can be done to help minimise the odour, these steps are taken.

If your Council is not able to help, individuals do also have the right to take private action. They may complain directly to the Magistrates’ Court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as amended.

Should you wish for more information on complaining about smell pollution, do contact your local Council who will be able to assist you and who usually have a leaflet available giving practical advice.