Nuisance from artificial lighting
Changes in the law now require local authorities to take reasonable steps, where practicable, to investigate any complaints of artificial light nuisance.
Domestic and commercial security lights and sports facilities cause most problems of this nature.
The following information explains how the Council will investigate and assess such complaints.
Can the council deal with nuisance from any artificial lighting source?
Section 102 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 amends section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to include nuisance from artificial light. However certain premises are exempt from the legislation. These are premises used primarily for transportation and premises where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons and includes:
- Railway premises
- Bus Stations and associated facilities
- Defence facilities
The law also recognises the need for commercial security lights and floodlighting of ‘relevant’ sports facilities (but not those on domestic properties) and whilst the Public Protection Department can investigate complaints against nuisance from these types of lighting, the operators of these facilities have a defence in the law of ‘best practicable means’. However, they are still expected to use artificial lighting responsibly and with consideration to local circumstances.
When can the council take action?
The Department will firstly have to consider whether the source of the light is from an exempted premise. If it is not from an exempted premise, the department must determine whether the artificial light constitutes a statutory nuisance; which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance that causes a substantial interference with the average person’s use and enjoyment of their own property. Action cannot be taken merely because a person is aware of light spilling onto their property from another source. The action the Public Protection Department can take will be also be influenced if the source of the lighting is from an industrial, trade or business premises, outdoor illuminated sporting facility or other premise covered by the defence of ‘best practicable means’.
What factors determine whether or not an artificial light source amounts to a statutory nuisance?
The determination of statutory nuisance is based upon a number of factors, including: -
- The nature of the surrounding area; rural/urban/commercial
- How many light nuisance incidents have occurred to date; e.g. one, ten or more?
- How often is the light in use; e.g. monthly, weekly, nightly or hourly?
- What time of the night is the light in use from and when is it turned off?
- How long does the light last for; e.g. seconds, minutes, hours or longer?
- What is the impact of the light, e.g. how bright is it in your house and what rooms are affected?
- Have any measures been taken to mitigate the impact of the light by the complainant; e.g. use of curtains or blinds?
How does the council investigate complaints of artificial light nuisance
Under normal circumstance the following procedure will be followed: -
- You will be asked to fill in diary sheets over a period of 2 weeks to provide written evidence about the number of incidents and how they affect you which must be returned to the Public Protection Department.
- If the information supplied on the diary sheets indicates there could be a statutory nuisance being caused, a letter will be sent to the owner of the premises or the person responsible for the light nuisance drawing their attention to the complaint made against them.
- If there is no improvement further investigations will continue. This will typically involve a pre-arranged visit by officers, who will call at both properties if possible.
- If the department obtains evidence that substantiates the allegations, action will be taken to improve the situation. This could require some form of informal control work being carried out, but usually involves serving an abatement notice on the person responsible requiring them to abate the nuisance or to control it or reduce the intrusion to a reasonable level deemed appropriate by the investigating officer. Failure to comply with an abatement notice is a criminal offence.
How to make an official complaint
You will need to contact the Public Protection Department and provide the following details: -
- The nature of the complaint.
- The address where the problem is caused.
- Your own name and address and a contact number and/or email address. Please note that the Department is unable to act on anonymous complaints because of the legal requirements of nuisance and human rights law, and the practical issues of effectively investigating nuisance complaints.
Unlike other types of nuisance complaints that the department investigates, it is also unlikely that the confidentiality of complainants can be maintained during an investigation into artificial light nuisance, since the person causing the nuisance may want specific advice from the Department on what adjustments are required to the lighting in order to avoid causing the nuisance, and this is likely to entail making reference to the affected property.
If you require more information please contact Public Protection