In recent years, local authorities have seen an increased number of complaints about artificial lighting.
Where light has been poorly installed it can become intrusive. Changes in legislation mean that nuisance from artificial light is now included in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 which amends the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The local authority therefore has a duty, to investigate any complaints of artificial light nuisance.
It is defined as “artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”.
Commonly, sources of such lights are often domestic or commercial security lights and floodlights at healthy living and sports facilities.
Whilst the law recognises the need for such artificial lighting for commercial use, environmental health officers will investigate complaints of nuisance but operators of such facilities will normally benefit from the ‘best practicable means’ defence. In reality, therefore, the focus for these new provisions will be domestic security lighting.
These are premises used for transport purposes and other premises where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons. These include:
- railway premises
- tramway premises
- bus stations and associated facilities
- public service vehicle operating centres
- goods vehicle operating centres
- premises occupied for defence purposes
Statutory nuisance from artificial light follows the same regime as for other statutory nuisances.
In order for a complaint to be investigated, the complainant will be asked to make a written complaint and will be required to provide their name and address, together with the location/address of where the problem is caused. An anonymous complaint will not normally be investigated because of the legal requirements of The Human Rights Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
At the first instance, it is hoped that simple remedies such as re-aiming lights or screening should be sufficient in many cases so as to avoid unnecessary enforcement action. However, should an issue need to be taken further, an assessment and determination will be made, upon available evidence, as to whether or not an artificial light source amounts to a statutory nuisance before any action can be taken.
For further information on this issue, please contact the Environmental Health Section.