Odour nuisance

Odour nuisance guidance

A statutory odour nuisance is something that is so offensive and prolonged that it significantly interferes with the enjoyment and use of the affected property.  It only applies to odour from trade or business premises.

Many things can affect whether we would consider an odour to be a statutory nuisance.

  • The time of day the odour occurs.
  • How long the odour is a problem.
  • The type of smell and its effects.
  • Together with the character of the area, for example, in the countryside, it is reasonable to expect odour from farming activities.

Depending upon the type of odour, judging whether odour is a statutory nuisance can take time, especially if it is difficult to predict when the odour will occur and if it only lasts for a short period.

Odour problems we can investigate

The types of odour problems we can investigate are:

  • Accumulations of waste that produce odour.
  • Odour arising from the way someone keeps animals.
  • Odour from industrial, trade, or business premises, including premises such as restaurants and takeaways.

Report an odour problem online, if the smell comes from one of the above.

If the source is a commercial premises, such as a restaurant, we cannot enforce any changes if the business has already adopted best practicable methods to reduce the odour.

Common causes of odour

Manure spreading

Odour complaints can sometimes relate to the storing and spreading of bio-solids (sewage sludge), animal manure and slurries (muck spreading).

The general practice of incorporating manures and bio-solids into agricultural land is a legitimate practice and considered the best option for disposal. The spreading of pre-treated sewage sludge is also a lawful activity, subject to certain controls, and considered the best practicable environmental option for disposal of such wastes.

Read the 'Code of Good Agricultural Practice' on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs' website for best practice on spreading. Spreading is a standard agricultural practice and odour expected from time to time. Undertake spreading under this best practice Code.

The Code advises about weather conditions considered appropriate for spreading, days and times to avoid, and the need for cultivation of the land soon after spreading.

If we become aware of unacceptable odours produced by spreading agricultural materials, an officer will investigate to check compliance with the Code.

We will not usually consider complaints unless the odour persists for at least 24 hours after the conclusion of spreading.

Commercial kitchen extraction systems

Although it is not possible to completely remove all odours, planning conditions generally prevent odour nuisances occurring from commercial kitchens.

If you feel that odour from a commercial kitchen, such as a restaurant, or pub, is having an unreasonable effect on the enjoyment of your property, please contact the Environmental Protection Team for advice. We will assess whether the offending kitchen is operating 'best practicable means'. For example, the extraction system being suitable for cooking the types of food and quantity of food. If the premises is already operating 'best practicable means', we have little remit to enforce change.

DEFRA has withdrawn 'Guidance on the control of odour and noise from commercial kitchen exhaust' on GOV.UK, but it contains some useful information and outlines what you need to submit to the planning department when applying to change the extraction system in a commercial kitchen.

Industrial, trade and business activities

We regulate certain types of businesses to keep any air pollution (including odour) that they may cause to a minimum.

Under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010, certain businesses must get a permit from us. This permit will set out conditions they must keep to, including ways to prevent odours produced by their activities from causing a nuisance.

Report an odour problem online, or contact the Environmental Protection Team on the details below, if you do experience problems with odour from businesses.

If we cannot solve the problem by enforcing the conditions of the permit, we may take action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The Environment Agency issue and enforce permits for larger industrial activities and we may refer your complaint to them.

Telephone the Environment Agency, on their 24 hour incident hotline, 0800 80 70 60, for an odour complaint about Omega Proteins Ltd (formerly known as Wildriggs).

Last updated: Tuesday, 6 June, 2023.