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Odour Nuisance

Odours have the potential to trigger strong reactions and whilst there is often agreement about what constitutes pleasant and unpleasant odours, there is a wide variation between individuals as to what is deemed unacceptable and what affects someone’s quality of life.

The human nose is very sensitive and can detect odours at very low concentrations in the air; sometimes as low as a few parts per billion (ppb). This, and the ability of odours to be carried long distances by the wind, means that odour has the ability to affect a large number of people.

When the Council receives a complaint, we would investigate the matter and, if appropriate, attempt to address the cause of the complaint – usually under the provisions of section 79 of The Environmental Protection Act 1990. The types of problems that we are able to deal with however, are restricted.

If you require our help please contact us.

Tell us:

-    Your Name, Address, and contact telephone number

-    The address that the odour originates from

-    A description of the type of odour

-    Whether this problems is a single event, or occurs regularly

-    When the problems started, or if a regular occurrence typical problems times

-    The nature of the problems which the odour is causing

We will advise you of the reference number of your report, which you should quote if you contact us again about this matter.

Legal Controls on Odour Nuisance

Nuisances caused by odours can be controlled using the statutory nuisance provisions in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Section 79 of the Act describes the circumstances that may be a classed as a statutory nuisance and includes: `any dust, steam, smell or other effluvia arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance`. It should be noted that this provision is restricted to industrial, trade or business premises and cannot be applied where the odour arises from a residential premises.

However, under certain circumstances, other parts of the Act and other legislation can be used to deal with odours from domestic premises. However, the types of odour problems that we are able to deal with from domestic premises are restricted to the following:

-    Fumes from boilers, etc.

-    Smoke from bonfires or chimneys

-    Accumulations of waste (e.g. dog faeces, food items, etc.)

-    Odour arising from the manner in which animals are kept

-    Filthy premises.

Please note that the council has no powers to deal with cooking odours from domestic sources.

Upon receipt of a complaint the Environmental Protection Team can undertake an investigation of the alleged odour nuisance, to determine whether it is a statutory odour nuisance under the provisions of section 79 of The Environmental Protection Act 1990 or, in the case of odours from domestic premises, if it can be dealt with using other legislation. In cases where a statutory nuisance is found to exist, an abatement notice will be served to restrict, prohibit or undertake work to abate the odour nuisance, this legislation relates to both residential, commercial and industrial premises.

When investigating the nuisance complaint the Council will consider several factors, including:

-    Frequency of the odour

-    Intensity of the odour

-    Duration of the odour

-    Offensiveness of the odour, and,      

-    Location of the affected premises.

For a statutory nuisance to exist, the odour must either:

-    Interfere, in a material or substantial way, with the complainant's use of their property (i.e. be a nuisance), or,

-    Must be prejudicial to health.

It is widely accepted that the human sense of smell is so sensitive that the concentration of odorous compounds in the atmosphere which could give rise to detected odours are generally much lower than the thresholds which would normally be associated with any detrimental health effects and, in nearly all cases, the Council must decide whether the odour is a nuisance.

During the investigation of an alleged nuisance, the complainant would be asked to keep a record, over a period of days or weeks, detailing:

 -    What they can smell

-     When they can smell it

-     For how long

-     For how strong

-     How offensive the odour is

-     What effect it is has upon them.

The Council would then use this information to determine if there is any pattern to the problem and then seek to find the cause and resolve the issue.

Individual responses to odour vary greatly and not all unpleasant odours are considered offensive at all times. In other words, an unpleasant odour in someone's garden in the winter that does not enter their house would not constitute a statutory nuisance as the "average" person would not be expected to spend significant periods of time in their garden during cold weather. However, during warmer weather, they are more likely to be in the garden and therefore, the same odour would be more likely to constitute a statutory nuisance. Also, where a particularly sensitive person experiences a significant interference in his personal comfort where an average person would not, there can be no statutory nuisance.

Where the odour was found to be giving rise to a statutory nuisance then an abatement notice requiring the person responsible to take remedial action would be served.

Occasionally, however, there are occasions where the Council will be unable to eliminate the odour problem. If you live close to sewage works, farmland on which slurry is spread or refuse tip or certain other smelly activities, you may be able to smell those activities from time to time. All the Council can do in those circumstances is to require that operators do whatever steps are reasonable to minimise those smells.

Frequently Asked Questions

The business next to my house regularly emits a smell that is offensive and it make me go inside my property, what should I do?
You can contact us, to make a complaint about the problem and Officers will approach the company informally to take action to resolve the matter. Officers will also investigate to determine what the odour is and whether it constitutes a statutory nuisance or in the case of a Permitted Process, a breach of a condition of the Environmental Permit.

I live in the country and am regularly affected by odour from farmers spreading slurry.  What can be done?
Some activities are inherently smelly but are activities that have to be completed.  It is acknowledged that manure spreading is an activity that is routinely undertaken on agricultural land. If you are adversely affected you can contact us and Officers will assess whether the activities are being undertaken in accordance with current good practices to ensure that odour is minimised but the activity would not necessarily be stopped.

My neighbour cooks very spicy food and I can smell it in my house what can I do?
The legislation specifically excludes odour from domestic premises so unfortunately there is nothing the Environmental Protection Team can do about it

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