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Statutory Nuisance

What is a statutory nuisance?

There are many ways in which people can be disturbed by community nuisances.  We can investigate certain types of nuisance and these include:

  • premises in such a state 
  • fumes, gases or smoke from premises
  • dust, steam, smell or effluvia from industrial, trade or business premises
  • accumulations or deposits
  • animals kept in such a place or manner
  • insects from relevant industrial, trade or business premises
  • artificial light from premises
  • noise from premises, or from vehicles, equipment or machinery in the street 

Before you complain to the Council

Please consider the following steps:

Try to resolve the problem informally

  • Try talking to the person or business causing the nuisance. Sometimes people don’t realise that other people are affected by their activities.
  • If you’re worried about approaching them, write a polite letter, explaining the problem clearly and sticking to the facts.
  • If the problem affects other neighbours it may be easier to settle if the complaint comes from a number of people.
  • A tenants’ association might help if you’re a member of one.

Contact the landlord

  • If you and your neighbour are in rented social housing, including Cornwall Housing. You should first speak with your Housing Officer. Housing providers may also be able to provide mediation.
  • If your neighbour is in rented property, you can complain direct to their landlord. This could be a housing association or a private landlord.

Take your own legal action

  • You can complain about statutory nuisance directly to a Magistrates’ court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There are steps that you have to follow and there are costs involved. Further information is available in the Taking your own action leaflet.
  • You can take other private legal action, and you may be able to claim compensation. However, taking someone to court can be expensive. There may be court fees and you may have to pay a solicitor. You may therefore wish to seek legal advice from a solicitor or get some free legal advice from a law centre or Citizens’ Advice.

How we deal with complaints

The Government has produced some guidance on statutory nuisance: how councils deal with complaints

At Cornwall Council:

  • We take an engagement approach to investigations by speaking with the person causing the nuisance. We explain the impact on the community, encourage them to change their behaviour or take steps to reduce or stop the nuisance. Formal enforcement will always be a last resort.
  • We may decide that the nuisance being complained about does not meet the legal criteria for formal enforcement. We will let you know if this is the case.
  • We may need to install noise monitoring equipment to record noise that occurs during the evening or at night, or only at weekends.
  • Where enforcement is required this is usually in the form of a notice that describes what needs to be done to reduce the effects of the nuisance.
  • A requirement to stop the nuisance completely is unlikely, where the activity itself is reasonable in the circumstances.
  • The person causing a nuisance may appeal the notice and a Magistrate will decide if the requirements of the notice should still apply.
  • We will investigate if you complain that the person causing the problem has not complied with the requirements of the notice.

Please note that we do not provide an out of hours service, other than by prior arrangement for existing cases, and only where considered necessary.

Statutory defences

The law recognises that it is not always possible to avoid causing a nuisance to neighbours.  This particularly applies to businesses that by their very nature produce noise, smoke, odour or other emissions.  This could include businesses such as music venues, farms, waste disposal sites and sewage treatment works.  

For nuisances from industrial, trade or business premises there is the defence of best practicable means (BPM).  This means looking at mitigation measures that are technically and financially proportionate to the site-specific circumstances. BPM can be used as a defence in an appeal hearing against the service of an abatement notice or in prosecution proceedings for failing to comply with the terms of a notice.

All persons have the defence of "reasonable excuse" in prosecution proceedings.

What you will have to do

  • In most cases you will be required to complete a nuisance diary for a period of at least two weeks before we start the investigation. 
  • The nuisance diary will be available to you once you have made a formal complaint and reported a nuisance.
  • You may also be asked to complete the nuisance diary throughout the investigation period.
  • If we serve an enforcement notice you will need to complete a witness statement and may need to attend court if the notice is appealed.
  • If we prosecute the person if they continue to not comply with the requirements of the notice, you will need to attend court as a witness.

Report a noise nuisance

If your complaint is about noise, we have a dedicated online noise reporting system (noise complaints will not be accepted by email). You can find out more about noise nuisance and a report a problem on our noise nuisance page.  Do not use the contact details below to report a noise nuisance.

Find out more about Noise

Report a nuisance

For all other nuisance complaints please report your complaint at the contact details at the bottom of this page.  We will require the following information:

  • Your name, address and contact details (we do not deal with anonymous complaints)
  • The name, address and contact details of the person or business you are complaining about
  • What you are complaining about e.g. bonfires. 
  • The time of day, how often it occurs and for how long.
  • When the problem first started.
  • If it has happened before, and if so how was it resolved.
  • Whether you have spoken to the person and what was their reaction
  • Any other information to help us deal with your complaint.

Please refer to our Privacy Policy for details on how we handle your data.

Statutory Nuisance Notices served

Notices served under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. 

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