Odour complaints

The Council receives many requests for help with odour problems every year. Smells complained about vary from industry and farming to catering and domestic sources.

Role of the council

Odour complaints are routinely investigated by us for two purposes - firstly to investigate whether any regulatory intervention is required and secondly to offer advice on good practice for minimising or preventing odour problems.

Certain industrial processes are regulated under Industrial Pollution Control. In some other cases there may be a planning permission or licence in force to regulate odour impacts. However in the majority of cases there is no specific legal control so investigations are pursued to determine whether statutory odour nuisances are being caused.

Statutory odour nuisances

Many people are temporarily troubled by unpleasant smells from time to time, especially those living in rural farming communities. Where a smell is very unpleasant or persistent and has a serious impact on residents the council may be able to demonstrate a statutory nuisance and enforce a solution if necessary.

Lancaster City Council has a duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to investigate cases where odour may be causing statutory nuisance. A statutory nuisance includes:

any smell arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

A statutory nuisance is something which is so offensive and so prolonged that it significantly interferes with the enjoyment of an affected property. Judgement of whether or not an odour constitutes a statutory nuisance can take time, especially if the occurrence of the odour is unpredictable and only apparent for short periods of time.

If the council finds that the odour is causing a statutory nuisance then an abatement notice may be served requiring the person or company responsible to take action to control it. Sometimes, however, the 'best practicable means' are already in place and there is no further improvement that can be achieved. If you live close to a sewage works, farmland on which slurry is spread, a refuse tip or certain other smelly activities you should perhaps expect that you may be able to smell those activities from time to time. In those circumstances the person or company responsible will have a duty to do what they reasonably can to minimise those smells.

How to complain about an odour problem

If you do wish to complain to the council about a smell you may be asked to assist an investigation by keeping a record of what you smell, for how long and when the odour affects you. The council will try to find the cause and examine what, if anything, can be done about it.

In some circumstances we may be unable to act on behalf of a person who has made a complaint of nuisance. This may be due to the type of problem, the circumstances of the case or lack of evidence. Even if we cannot take action there is a range of independent action that can be taken privately by individuals. This includes complaining directly to the magistrates' court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as amended. Though rarely used, this procedure is simple and need not be expensive.

Last updated: 17 March 2016