Light Pollution is the intrusion of over bright or poorly directed lights onto neighbouring properties e.g., a neighbour’s domestic security light spilling into a bedroom and preventing sleep. In law this is seen as unreasonable and a nuisance. It is also unreasonable to expect the complainant to use a black out blind or curtains to resolve the problem.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, some types of light pollution can now be designated a statutory nuisance if proved to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
- view the Environmental Protection Act 1990 on the UK legislation website
- view the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 on the UK legislation website
Premises used for transport purposes, or those where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons, are excluded from the act. These include airports, harbours, railway and bus stations, goods vehicle depots, public service vehicle operating centres, prisons, lighthouses and defence premises.
Preventing light pollution
To avoid causing light pollution:
- do not fit unnecessary lights
- do not use excessively bright lights - domestic security lights only need a 150W lamp and porch lights only need a 9W bulb
- turn lights off when they are not needed
- consider controlling lights with passive infra-red detectors, or timers to avoid lighting during unsocial hours
- when aiming floodlights, make sure you only light the area that needs lighting
- to reduce the effects of glare, main beam angles for all lights should be below 70 degrees
- be careful not to put light onto other people's properties or into windows
What to do if you’re experiencing light pollution
Often the person causing the problem is simply unaware. Try approaching them first to explain the situation. In most cases, all that is required is a lower wattage bulb, or the proper placement of fixings, sensors and shielding accessories.
If the direct approach does not work or you are unable to approach your neighbour, consider mediation. An independent third party will talk to both sides to reach an agreement or compromise. Contact your local mediation service, UNITE, on 01642 311633 - other services are available.
Reporting a problem
If the owner of the lighting is not willing to resolve the problem or compromise, then we can investigate the problem for you. To help us, we’ll need you to keep information on:
- how long the light is on each day
- the times of day the light is an issue
- how often the light is an issue
- how bright the light is
This information, along with our officer’s evidence, will be used to judge if the light is in fact a nuisance. If we decide it is a nuisance, we can ask the owner to take action.
The investigation process
Local Authorities have a duty to investigate nuisance complaints to determine if a statutory nuisance exists. When we receive complaints about lighting nuisance, we adopt a balanced and managed approach to investigating them, seeking to resolve most cases informally.
A statutory nuisance is an unreasonable emission of light that significantly affects the way you use and enjoy your property - it is more than annoyance or mere detection of light. In determining a nuisance, other factors will be considered such as the time of the day, location, duration, frequency and effect.
- We will write to the person responsible for the lighting advising that a complaint has been received and asking them not to cause a nuisance to properties around them. We will aim to do this within five working days. Further informal advice will be given as necessary.
- Complainant’s details are kept confidential and are not released to the nuisance maker unless agreed - however situations may occur where it will be self-evident who is affected.
- Complainants will be asked to complete a diary of when and how the lighting affects the use and enjoyment of their property.
- If diaries are not returned within six weeks, the complaint will be closed.
- If completed diaries indicate that a statutory nuisance could be occurring officers will make an appointment to visit the complainant’s property during the hours of darkness to make an assessment.
- If evidence shows that a statutory nuisance exists an Abatement Notice will be served to prohibit its recurrence or restrict the lighting. The effect of the notice is to make any further occurrence of the nuisance a criminal offence punishable, on conviction in the Magistrates Court, by a fine not exceeding £5,000. This rises to £20,000 in the case of commercial premises.
- If further formal action is necessary, the Council must be able to justify its action in court. Complainants will be asked to provide a witness statement and may be required to attend court as a witness. However, this only happens in a minority of cases. If you have a complaint and would not be prepared to go to court, we may be unable to resolve the case.
Taking private action
Regardless of our investigation, you may take your own legal action by complaining directly to the Magistrates Court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which you can view on the UK legislation website. If the Court is convinced there is a case it will make an order requiring the nuisance to be abated and prohibit its recurrence.
Contact us to report a problem of light pollution.