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Odour nuisance


The Environmental Protection Team deal with many complaints about odours arising from a variety of sources, commonly including:

  • Farmland Spreading, including sewage sludge, cesspool waste and poultry unit waste.
  • Industrial Premises. e.g. solvents from car or body repair shops.
  • Farms, including livestock rearing units, swill boiling etc.
  • Stables and Livery e.g horse manure burning.
  • Hot Food Takeaways / Restaurants/ Public Houses.e.g. cooking odours and bins.
  • Food Manufacturing Premises.
  • Sewage Works.

The Environmental Protection Team can enforce nuisance legislation if the odour is intrusive or excessive. However, we have to bear in mind the defence of Best Practical Means (BPM). This means if it can be shown that the odour is normal for the process and all reasonable steps are being taken to control odour,  then formal action is unlikely to succeed. The simple tips below may help reduce the likelihood of causing a nuisance:

Farmland Spreading

  • Check the weather forecast prior to spreading
  • Check the wind direction and try to spread only when wind is blowing away from neighbouring properties
  • Avoid spreading at weekends, bank holidays or evenings
  • Do not spread close to houses
  • Avoid frequent spreading in the same location
  • Avoid very heavy applications
  • Plough in immediately after or use injection to minimise odour

Cesspits and Septic tanks

  • Empty frequently
  • Remedy defects as soon as possible, e.g. blocked soakaways/overflows
  • Ensure vents are appropriately located and of sufficient height

Poultry Units

  • Remove waste frequently
  • Clean out storage sheds frequently bearing in mind the weather conditions

Industrial Premises

  • Where necessary increase the discharge height of any chimneys, but ensure this has no planning implications before doing so
  • Remove any terminal endings that slow the air flow e.g. caps and cowls
  • Substitute odorous products
  • Use activated charcoal filters to adsorb organic odours
  • Use water-based paints with low organic solvent content
  • Maintain extract equipment, e.g. spray booths, fans etc
  • Relocate odorous processes away from nearby domestic premises

Farms/Livestock Units

  • Avoid odorous feeds.
  • Frequently remove waste, considering the time of day and wind direction
  • Keep odorous areas dry and well ventilated
  • Avoid the storage animal wastes near domestic premises
  • Avoid burning horse manure, use an alternative means of disposal

Hot food premises and food manufacturing

  • Increase the height and/or re-orientate the flue
  • Service, clean and maintain ventilation equipment
  • Use odour control technology, e.g. activated charcoal filters

What should you do if you are concerned?

If you have a complaint, it is best to discuss it initially with the person responsible; they may not realise they are causing a problem. Try to be reasonable, otherwise your discussions are likely to end in further argument. Explain the details of your complaint and try to agree on a reasonable solution or compromise.

The Investigation

We have to assess whether the odour experienced is causing a Statutory Nuisance (under the Environmental Protection Act 1990). This has to be judged on a case by case basis and essentially we consider whether the impacts are reasonable with reference to:

  • Duration
  • Intensity
  • Frequency
  • Unpleasantness of the odour concerned

We will follow our usual investigative procedure and and write to the person responsible to advise that there has been a complaint and that we may carry out some monitoring. This often helps but just in case we also ask the complainant to start keeping odour records. If there is a typical pattern to the odour, we may carry out planned visits to assess the odour.

The odour nuisance record sheets are very important and the Council will not take any further action unless it has received completed nuisance record sheets from you. If the records are not returned without a reasonable explanation within 28 days the complaint will be closed.

Further information on the investigation process is available in the leaflet or factsheet below or on our What is a Statutory Nuisance? page.

How to complain

If you wish to complain you can phone us on the number below, or online here: Report a nuisance - noise or other pollution

Environmental Protection Act 1990 DEFRA Guidance on Odour for Local Authorities DEFRA Code of Practice on Odour from Sewage Treatment Plants DEFRA Protecting our Water, Soil and Air - A Code of Good Agricultural Practice DEFRA Guidance on the Control of Odour and Noise from Commercial Kitchen Exhaust Systems Institute of Air Quality Management - Guidance on the assessment of odour for planning Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Environmental Protection UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Environment Agency