Pollution Control - Light Nuisance

What is light nuisance?

The law

On 6 April 2006, a new section was added to the definitions of Statutory Nuisances within the Environmental Protection Act 1990. 

Sec 79(1)(fb) - "Artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance"

The law explained

It is expected, that the focus of the provision will be on domestic security lighting. However, care must be taken when determining artificial light from this source to be a statutory nuisance because few instances of this kind will meet the criteria.

Statutory nuisance is not the same as "annoyance", and it is narrower than "nuisance" in common law. The statutory nuisances are essentially about public health, and there must be material interference with property or personal comfort. Whilst lights briefly turning on and off (triggered by cats for example) may be irritating, they may not necessarily be considered a statutory nuisance.

Also, statutory nuisance does not include light emitted from premises used for transport purposes, or other premises where high levels of light are required for safety or security reasons such as:-

  • Airports
  • Public service vehicle operating centres
  • Harbours
  • Goods vehicle operating centres
  • Railway premises
  • Lighthouses
  • Tramway premises
  • Prisons
  • Bus stations and associated facilities
  • Premises occupied for Defence purposes

Possible sources of light nuisance

  • Domestic security lights
  • Commercial security lights
  • Car park floodlighting
  • Advertising/signage lighting
  • Building/landscape lighting

There are no set levels of light above which a statutory nuisance is, or may be caused, nor below which it will not. The environmental health officer will take account of a range of factors including:-

  • Duration
  • Frequency
  • Impact - i.e. material interference with use of property or personal comfort
  • Local environment - i.e. nature and character
  • Motive - i.e. unreasonable behaviour 
  • Sensitivity of the person affected - It is important to note that statutory nuisance relies on the perception of the average person on the street, and is not designed to take account of extreme sensibilities, age or health.

How can I avoid causing light nuisance?

If you are installing outdoor lighting, first consider:-

  • Is the lighting really necessary?
  • Will the light affect others? (consider the direction of the beam, and
    prevent “light spill” onto neighbouring properties)
  • Do the lights need to be on all of the time?
  • Could security be better achieved in another way?
  • Where sensors are used to trigger lights, are these able to be set to
    avoid accidental triggering?
  • Is the proposed lighting too powerful for the intended use?
  • There are energy savings to be made by using less powerful lamps and restricting the time that they are switched on
  • Is the light directed downwards?

You may have good reasons to install exterior lighting on your property but always consider your actions carefully, and take steps to prevent it from becoming a nuisance. It is normally possible to set up lights without them upsetting other people.

What can I do about light nuisance that is affecting me?

As with other nuisance problems, if you are affected by light nuisance it is advisable to approach the lighting owner, in the first instance, outlining your concerns.  There may be a straightforward solution through minor adjustments to the lighting system that will resolve the problem. Often the lighting owner may not be aware that their system is giving rise to a problem. 

Making a complaint about nuisance lighting

If negotiation with your neighbour fails to bring an acceptable solution please contact Environmental and Health Services on 01785 619000.

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