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Nuisance from Artificial Light

Light pollution is described as artificial light that is allowed to illuminate, or pollute, areas not intended to be lit.  When we receive complaints regarding artificial light nuisance we assess if the emitted light is prejudicial to health or is a nuisance. However there are certain premises that are exempt from action by the Council.  For example premises used for transport purposes or requirement for high intensity lights for safety and security reasons.   Such premises within the Borough would include:

Public service vehicle operating centres

Goods vehicle operating centres

Railway premises

Bus stations and associated facilities

Premises occupied for Defence purposes

There is also a defence for all trade, industrial, business or outdoor sports facilities that the “best practicable means” to prevent light pollution is being taken.

If you require our help please contact us.

Tell us:

  • Your name, address, and a contact telephone number.
  • The address the light originates from.
  • A description of the type of light.
  • Whether this problem is a single event, or occurs regularly.
  • When the problems started, or if a regular occurrence, typical problem times.
  • The nature of the problems which the light is causing to yourself.

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 Artificial Light Nuisance

Light can be treated as a Statutory Nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The law (Section 102 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005) makes 'exterior light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance' a criminal offence.

When we receive a complaint regarding nuisance lights the officer will normally visit  both parties and discuss the problem. More often than not, there is a simple remedy such as tilting the light unit and perhaps changing to a lower wattage bulb.  High power (300-500 watt) bulbs are likely to be too powerful. A 150 watt bulb is normally adequate for most domestic safety and security purposes.

The officer can also consider some of the following when establishing whether a nuisance is actionable or not.

1. The duration of the nuisance (how long does it last for when it happens, seconds, minutes or hours?)
2. The frequency of the nuisance (how often does it happen, daily, weekly or occasionally).
3. The seriousness of the nuisance (does it materially affect someone's use of their house? The usual critical factor is whether it disturbs sleep).
4. The motives behind the action causing the nuisance (is it malicious or does the problem arise from ordinary behaviour?
5. The sensitivity of the complainant (is the person who is complaining 'ordinary' or overly sensitive to the light?)

In difficult circumstances it may be necessary to apply National Guidance Values for acceptable levels of light. This is carried out by using a calibrated light level meter. The guidance levels are then applied to the measured  levels. If the measured level exceeds the guidance level, formal action can be taken by the council to secure a  remedy to the complaint.

Planning Application (Light Sources)

Environmental Health sometimes require Planning Conditions restricting the intensity of certain light sources such as floodlights for sports pitches or major complexes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What strength of light bulb should I use?
150 watt tungsten halogen is usually sufficient for domestic situations.

How long should my light stop on for?
Reduce on timer to a few minutes, it saves energy and illuminates only when needed.  Passive infra-red detector built on to the lighting unit can do this automatically for you.

What if I need security lighting for my security camera?
Only illuminate your own private area and in all cases do not allow any lighting to spill onto other neighbouring properties.

Why doesn’t my neighbour just close their curtains?
When assessment of light nuisance complaints are made, complainants are expected to have reasonable window coverage at night.

What about the street lights?
Background illumination from existing street lighting is considered when assessing light nuisance complaints.

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