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The Environmental Protection Team can deal with complaints about odour. The main legislation that can be used to take action relates to statutory nuisance in Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Complaints about smells can arise from a number of sources, such as food from takeaway shops and restaurants, sewage sludge spread as fertiliser on farms and industrial processes using solvents and paint.

For an odour to be classed as a statutory nuisance, it must seriously affect an individual's use or enjoyment of their property. To constitute a nuisance, the odour must occur continuously for a period of time and be a frequent problem. The council is unable to take action on short-lived smells that occur only for a few minutes, smells that happen infrequently or where an individual's use or enjoyment of their property is not affected.

Nuisance is assessed subjectively by an officer from the Environmental Protection Team, who must visit the affected property to witness the odour. If the council is satisfied that a nuisance has occurred and may reoccur, a legal notice will be served requiring the abatement of further nuisances.

However the type of problems that the council is able to deal with are restricted to the following:

  • fumes from boilers
  • smoke from bonfires or chimneys
  • accumulations of waste (such as dog faeces and food items)
  • odour arising from the manner in which animals are kept
  • filthy premises
  • odour from industrial, trade or business premises.

The council has no powers to deal with cooking odours from domestic sources.

Hot food outlets

Most of the complaints the Environmental Protection Team receives about odour involve takeaway shops, restaurants and pubs. The problems can be due to poorly maintained air handling units or inadequate ventilation and filtration and may mean that the system in question requires servicing or replacement parts.

The team tries to control the potential for odour nuisance from such premises at the planning stage by requesting that specific conditions are imposed as part of the planning permission. By seeking to ensure that each establishment has a suitable extraction and filtration system and that the fumes are being discharged at a suitable height, smells from these premises should be minimised. It still receives complaints about food premises and tries to resolve them by working with the owners, either informally or through formal legal action if necessary, to ensure that the necessary work is done.