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What is the law relating to light pollution?

Section 102 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 amends section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to include nuisance from artificial light. However, certain premises are exempt from the legislation; these are premises used primarily for transportation and premises where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons and include:

  • Airports
  • Railway premises
  • Bus Stations and associated facilities
  • Lighthouses
  • Prisons
  • Defence facilities

The law also recognises the need for commercial security lights and floodlighting of ‘relevant' sports facilities (but not those on domestic properties) and whilst the Environmental Health and Licensing Team can investigate complaints of nuisance from these types of lighting, the operators of these facilities have a defence in law if they can show that they have taken ‘best practicable means' to avoid a nuisance being caused. However, they are still expected to use artificial lighting responsibly and with consideration to local circumstances.

What should I do if I am suffering from light pollution?

Firstly, if you are bothered by a light source, approach the person responsible for the lighting and explain politely and calmly that you are being troubled by the light source. Although you may find this difficult, they might not be aware of the distress that the lighting is causing, by chatting about it you can reach a solution. A minor adjustment may be all that is required or an agreement about when lights should be turned on or off.

Should your informal approaches fail, or you are unable to speak with the person responsible for the lighting, contact the Environmental Health and Licensing Team who can investigate your complaint.

When can the Council take action?

The Environmental Health and Licensing Team will firstly have to consider whether the source of the light is from an exempted premise. If it is not from an exempt premise as listed above, officers must determine whether the artificial light constitutes a statutory nuisance that causes a substantial interference with the average person's use and enjoyment of their own property.

Action cannot be taken merely because a person is aware of light spilling onto their property from another source. The action the Environmental Health and Licensing Team can take will also be influenced by whether the source of the lighting is from an industrial, trade or business premise, outdoor illuminated sporting facility or other premises covered by the defence of ‘best practicable means'.

What factors determine whether an artificial light source amounts to a statutory nuisance?

The determination of statutory nuisance is based upon a number of matters of fact, including:

  • The nature of the surrounding area, i.e. rural/urban/commercial.
  • How many light nuisance incidents have occurred to date?
  • How often is the light in use?
  • What time of the night is the light in use from, and when is it turned off?
  • How long does the light last for?
  • What is the impact of the light, e.g. how bright is it in your house and what rooms are affected?
  • Have any measures been taken to reduce the impact of the light by the complainant; e.g. use of curtains or blinds?

How does the Council investigate complaints of light pollution?

Under normal circumstances the following procedure will be followed:

  • You will be asked to fill in diary sheets to provide written evidence about the number of incidents and how they affect you which must be returned to the Environmental Health and Licensing Team. If after 28 days we have not received your diary sheet back, we will assume that you have managed to resolve the problem yourself, and we will not take any other action.
  • If the information supplied on the diary sheets indicates there could be a statutory nuisance being caused, a letter will be sent to the owner of the premises or the person responsible for the light nuisance drawing their attention to the complaint made against them.
  • If there is no improvement further investigations will be made. This will typically involve a pre-arranged visit by officers.
  • If officers obtain evidence that supports the allegations, action will be taken to improve the situation. This could be an informal request to carry out work or adjustments to the lights, but usually involves serving an abatement notice on the person responsible requiring them to abate the nuisance or to control it or reduce the intrusion to a reasonable level deemed appropriate by the investigating officer. Failure to comply with an abatement notice is an offence.

Making a light nuisance complaint

You can make a complaint by completing an online form.

Make a light nuisance complaint - opens new window

As well as via an online form, you can make a complaint in the following ways:

  • Contact the Environmental Health and Licensing Team.
  • Letter to the Environmental Health section at Daneshill House in Stevenage.
  • Through your local ward Councillor.

Information you need to give us

  • Your name and address, your telephone number and email address.
  • The address, or site, where the light is coming from.
  • The type of light – security, garden lights, sports facility floodlights.
  • What times the light(s) affect you.
  • How long the lights are on.
  • The effect that the light has on you (e.g. not being able to sleep).
  • Anything you have done to try to deal with the problem, for example talking to the person who controls the light.

Can I remain anonymous following my complaint?

Unlike other types of nuisance complaints that the department investigates, it is unlikely that the confidentiality of complainants can be maintained during an investigation into artificial light nuisance, since the person causing the nuisance may want specific advice from the team on what adjustments are required to the lighting in order to avoid causing the nuisance, and this is likely to entail making reference to the affected property.

Environmental Health and Licensing

Daneshill House

Danestrete

Stevenage

Herts

SG1 1HN

env.health@stevenage.gov.uk

01438 242908 / 242916