Nuisances may arise from premises, smoke, fumes, dust, smell, artificial light or accumulations from waste. At some time or other, we may be affected by the activities of our neighbours, local businesses or agricultural practices.

Only when this becomes unreasonable due to frequency or duration and interferes with the use and enjoyment of your property and can be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’ does the Council have powers to take action.

What can you do?

In the first instance it is better to talk to the person and explain the problem. You may find that it can be resolved amicably and without the need for further action as they may not be aware of the problem. This has the additional benefit of avoiding the tensions that can arise after formal intervention by the Council. Approach the matter carefully if you think your neighbour might react angrily to a complaint.

What power does the Council have?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives the Council powers to deal with statutory nuisance, which may include:

• Premises in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
• Smoke or fumes from domestic or industrial premises; garden fires or chimneys
• Dust, steam, smell or other effluvia emitted from industrial trade or business premises, but not a domestic premises.
• Artificial light
• Accumulations or deposits such as domestic refuse, dog faeces etc.

The council cannot take action in the following circumstances:

• The issue is not determined as being a statutory nuisance.
• An individual person is more sensitive or less tolerant to the smoke, odour or light.
• Reasonable activities or behaviours such as cooking or smoking odours from domestic properties.

Making a Complaint

For a complaint to be taken for investigation you must-
• Give us your name and address as anonymous complaints cannot be actioned.
• Know the address causing the problem.
• Provide detailed information in a diary sheet giving times, dates and a description of the issue and how it is affecting you.

The law is extremely complex and each case is individually assessed to establish whether the problem is sufficiently severe as to warrant legal action. The Council will investigate smoke, odour or light nuisance the same way as other nuisance complaints such as noise. 

You can contact us on 0115 9072244 Ext. 3820 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Garden fires and the Law

There is no specific law to restrict garden fires at certain times or days or prohibit them altogether. An outright ban would be difficult to enforce. However, the law does not permit anyone to create a statutory nuisance from either smoke or fumes.

For smoke or fumes to be considered a statutory nuisance, they would have to be a persistent problem which interfered substantially with someone's well-being, comfort or enjoyment of their property. If a fire is only an occasional event it is unlikely to be considered a statutory nuisance in law. Also, if fires are being lit by different neighbours, each burning occasionally it would be difficult to support an action for a statutory nuisance.

Please contact the Police on 101 if anyone lighting a fire is resulting in the smoke drifting across a road that endangers traffic.

Alternatives to Burning

Before choosing to have a fire please consider alternative ways to dispose of garden waste such as:-

  • Composting - rather than burning garden waste composting will produce a useful soil conditioner saving money on commercial products. Woody waste can be shredded and then composted or used as mulch. If using a shredder they can be nosiy so consider the impact on your neighbours.
  • Garden Waste Service - make full use of the council’s free garden waste collection service for grass cutting and hedge trimmings. 
  • Recycling - garden waste can be taken to the amenity disposal sites run by Derbyshire County Council.

Reducing Smoke and Fumes when Burning

Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp or green material is being burnt. If you decide to have a garden fire please follow the advice listed below

  • Choose the time of day and weather conditions that will cause the least inconvenience to neighbours. A fire on a windy day can easily get out of control.
  • Choose your bonfire site carefully, well away from trees, fences and windows.
  • Burn material quickly in small quantities so the minimum amount of smoke is created. An incinerator makes this much easier.
  • Have a hose-pipe and buckets of water handy just in case.
  • Advise your nearest neighbours before you light a fire so they can be prepared.

Please Do Not:

  • Burn damp grass clippings or ‘green’ material as this creates thick smoke.
  • Burn any oily rags, rubber, plastics or other materials which will create heavy smoke or toxic fumes.
  • Light a fire when your neighbours have washing drying, are out enjoying their gardens or have windows wide open.
  • Light a fire in the evening and leave burning overnight.
  • Leave a fire to smoulder for long periods.
  • Leave a fire unattended. Hose it down until cold before you leave.

Industrial and commercial bonfires

Bonfires connected with trade waste or commercial activities are illegal. Please contact Environmental Health if you are aware of any burning on a commercial site. Please contact the Police on 101 smoke is being allowed to drift across a road that endangers traffic.

Odour and Fumes

Odours to be carried long distances in the air means they may affect a large number of people. In certain circumstances odours can be a statutory nuisance. This depends on the frequency, duration, intensity and / or source.

Agricultural Odours

Most people accept agricultural odours as a part of being in the countryside.
For some a common source of odour complaints relate to the spreading of bio-solids (sewage sludge), animal manures (such as chicken manure) and slurries (muck spreading). Prevailing winds can carry these odours some distance across fields and into residential areas.

Spreading of all these waste materials is recognised as standard agricultural practice. As Erewash Borough contains areas of field and working farmland, such odour must be expected from time to time. Sewage sludge may cause more of an odour than other forms of bio-solids. This is the semi solid material left over from the sewage treatment process. It is a readily available and sustainable resource which contains valuable nutrients and trace elements essential to plants and animals.

It is not always possible to predict the expected duration or intensity of odours, as this can be dependent upon weather conditions but odours usually only last for a short period of time. Farmers are encouraged to use best practice whilst spreading on their fields.

When does spreading take place?

Spreading can only be undertaken in fair weather as ploughing in wet, cold or frozen ground is not feasible. The growing season dictates that most crops are harvested in summer. Ploughing in of manures follows almost immediately to replenish the soil ready for the following year. Unfortunately this means that spreading is most likely to occur at times when people will have their windows open or want to outside.
The process of spreading is a key factor in successful farming; unfortunately the weather and positions of their fields/crops dictate when farmers can spread.

Are farmers allowed to spread?

The spreading of bio-sludge, manure and slurry onto agricultural land is:-
• a lawful activity
• considered the best option for disposal and,
• recognised as a sustainable agricultural practice as it reduces the use of chemical fertilisers.

Without recycling in this way, these by-products would need to be disposed of in much less sustainable ways, for example by being sent to landfill. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published a Code of Good Agricultural Practice for Farmers, Growers and Land Managers. The code is a practical guide to help farmers protect the environment in which they operate. Whilst the code itself is not law, compliance with it can help farmers meet their legal obligations. The code provides advice to farmers on how to carry out their activities, such as spreading, whilst causing minimum nuisance to neighbouring properties.

Can the council take any action?

It is unlikely that action will be taken against agricultural odours in a country location, unless the odour is unreasonably excessive and is identified as being the result of bad agricultural practice.
For complaints to be investigated by the council it is necessary to provide details of:-

  • The duration of the odour.
  • The farm undertaking the spreading or as much detail of the source as possible.

If the source of the odour can be identified the farmer may be contacted and advised on best practice and encouraged to use it.

Artificial Light

Light shining into your property can be a nuisance and is best described as artificial light that illuminates or intrudes on areas not intended to be lit such as security lights. There is little in the way of formal guidance as to what constitutes legally actionable light nuisance. There is no fixed level which constitutes a statutory nuisance; individual circumstances differ and each case has to be judged on its own merits, including the duration and frequency of the light nuisance.

The Borough Council has no legal powers over general light pollution, for example of the night sky, only light that is causing a potential nuisance to an individual. Light nuisance does not include light emitted from premises used for transport purposes or where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons such as street lighting.

Preventing Light Nuisance

To minimise the risk of causing a light nuisance to neighbouring properties, please think about the following:
• Is the lighting necessary?
• Consider the hours or time of day that the lighting is on.
• Can the lights be adjusted to only illuminate the area required?
• Can the lights be directed downwards rather than shining horizontally?