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Neighbourhood nuisance law

The Environmental Protection Act gives local authorities legal powers to deal with complaints that are established as a statutory nuisance.

What matters can constitute a statutory nuisance

To qualify as a statutory nuisance, an issue must be more than just something that simply annoys a person. It is something that causes a serious and unreasonable interference with a person's right to enjoy their property, or damages their health - in terms of the threat of disease rather than the risk of injury.

There are a number of sources than can cause a statutory nuisance, for example:

  • noise
  • smoke from fires/ bonfires
  • cooking smells from commercial food premises
  • light overspill/glare from external light fittings
  • any accumulation or deposit which is harmful to health or a nuisance
  • any animal kept at a place or in a manner which is harmful to health or a nuisance

What to do if a problem arises

In some cases problems can be resolved informally through discussion with the person responsible for the nuisance or by using mediation if you feel comfortable to do so. A formal complaint may cause future difficulties between you and the person responsible for the nuisance. If this approach fails or you do not wish to approach the person responsible then you are able to contact us to seek advice or make a formal complaint. Unfortunately due to the nature of the investigation process anonymous cases cannot be fully investigated therefore you are encouraged to leave your full contact details.

What we can do

We will investigate your complaint and initially attempt to resolve the matter informally. This will generally include asking you to compile a record of incidents and how they affect you. However, where this approach fails and we are satisfied after investigation and review of your incident log, that the matter constitutes a statutory nuisance, we can serve a notice on the offending party requiring them to stop the nuisance. Failure to comply with an abatement notice is an offence and may result in legal proceedings. If this leads to a case being taken to court you may be asked to appear as a witness.

We can also provide advice on the burning of correct fuels to avoid smoking chimneys. If you are installing a new coal or log burning appliance, you need to check with us to see if you are situated in a designated smoke control area, where some fuels cannot be used.

What can you do

To help the investigation, you will be issued with log/diary sheets so that you can provide us with the following information:

  • the date and time the nuisance occurs 
  • a description of the nuisance
  • how the nuisance affects your quality of life 

This record should be kept for up to 28 days and then returned to be assessed as part of our investigation. If the diary sheets are not returned we will assume that the matter has been resolved and no further action will be taken. 

Contact us
Environment, Health and Consumer Protection
03000 261 016
Our address is:
  • Durham County Council
  • Environment, Health and Consumer Protect
  • PO Box 617
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 9HZ