Odour Nuisance

Sometimes smells can become unpleasant and can interfere with person’s rights to enjoy their own property and can be more frequent in a rural area like West Somerset. If the smell does not go on for a prolonged period or is not too unpleasant we can usually cope. Anything with a strong smell that lasts a long while can cause discomfort and may be considered an odour nuisance. It doesn’t have to be a “bad” smell even a “pleasant” odour may become a nuisance if the duration or frequency of exposure increases.

Smell is not something that can be measured. The chemicals, which give rise to smell, are normally at exceedingly low levels and sensitivity to smell varies very considerably between individuals. The degree to which people are affected will however depend on the sensitivity of their sense of smell and their tolerance of the odour in question.

The Council can take action under Section 80 of The Environmental Protection Act 1990 in cases where a statutory nuisance is found to exist. The types of problems that we are able to deal with however, are restricted to the following. A statutory nuisance includes ‘any smell arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance’.

Investigating odour nuisance

A nuisance has to interfere materially with the well being of the residents, that is affect their well being, even though it may not be prejudicial to health before it is considered a statutory nuisance.

The following will be considered by the Council when investigating an alleged statutory odour nuisance:
  • the nature of the smell;
  • the duration and frequency of the occurrences;
  • the effects on residents; and
  • the available remedies.

All suspected statutory odour nuisance scenarios from commercial premises would be investigated by random visits from an officer from Environmental Health to identify the source of the odour and witness the extent of the emission.

It is not possible to completely remove all odours – those emanating from restaurants for example – but through best practice emissions may be reduced. If the origin of the odour is found to be already operating best practice methods, then the Local Authority has little remit to enforce change. If you are a food business, the Environmental Health team can give advise on extraction systems. Please contact us directly for this information.

If you do wish to complain to the council about a smell you will be asked to keep a record, over a period of 6 weeks, of what you can smell, for how long and at what time of day. If the odour is found to be giving rise to a statutory nuisance then an abatement notice requiring the person responsible to take remedial action may be served.

If the local authority is unable to substantiate a statutory nuisance you are able to take your own action against the person/organisation responsible. This is under Section 82, Environmental Protection Act 1990. Information on taking your own action can be found in the related documents.

If you have any queries about odour nuisance, contact the Environmental Health & Licencing team on 01643 703704 or email customerservices@westsomerset.gov.uk or complete the online form.