Odours and smells

Our Environmental Protection team has powers of enforcement, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to deal with smells that cause a statutory nuisance. A statutory nuisance includes 'any smell arising on an industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance'.

Smells originating from domestic premises are not in themselves covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The source of that smell, however, may be covered under the Act as an accumulation of rubbish (contact Environmental Protection) or the result of a property being in a filthy and verminous condition. For the Council to be able to take formal action the smell must be considered to be a statutory nuisance.

Unfortunately, smells are not something that can be measured. The chemicals that give rise to smells are normally at exceedingly low levels and sensitivity to smells varies very considerably between individuals. Judgement of whether or not a smell constitutes a statutory nuisance can, therefore, take time especially if the occurrence of the smell is unpredictable and only apparent for short periods of time.

How to make a formal complaint

If you are affected by a smell and wish to make a formal complaint to us about the smell, you will be asked to keep a record, over a period of days or weeks, of what you can smell, what you think is causing the smell, for how long and at what time of day.

We will use this information to try and establish if there is any pattern to the problem. We will then try to establish the cause and what, if anything, can be done about it.

If we conclude that the smell is giving rise to a statutory nuisance then we may serve an abatement notice requiring the organisation responsible to take remedial action. Sometimes, however, there is nothing further that can be done. You should be aware that if you live close to sewage works, farmland on which slurry is spread, a refuse tip, or certain other smelly activities you may be able to smell those activities from time to time. All we can do in those circumstances is require the operator to do what they reasonably can to minimise those smells.