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Light pollution

We are all bothered from time to time by unwanted light from things like security lights or the permanent orange glow in our towns. The following information has been taken from the DEFRA guidance 'Statutory nuisance from insects and artificial light':

Artificial light nuisance may be, but is not necessarily, the same as light pollution. Artificial light nuisance is a source of light that in the opinion of a trained public health professional, who makes an assessment on a case by case basis, interferes with someone's use of their property, and / or is or might be prejudicial to someone's health. Light pollution could be defined as any form of artificial light which shines outside the area it needs to illuminate, including light that is directed above the horizontal into the night sky creating sky glow (which impedes our views of the stars), or which creates a danger by glare. Although light pollution might affect the aesthetic beauty of the night sky and interfere with astronomy, it is not necessarily a statutory nuisance.

Many cases of artificial light nuisance can be solved through simple engineering techniques and consideration of function and effect.

The minimum level of illumination necessary to light a property should be used. Excessive levels of illumination provide dark shadows for people, including those with criminal intent, to hide in or behind. Lighting that is shielded or angled down can actually improve rather than compromise security.

A separate switching detector can be used on some models to sense the movement of intruders on the property. Lights and detectors should be aimed to detect and light people on the property, not people or animals walking down the street.

Timers adjusted to the minimum can reduce the operation of the light.

Bulkhead or porch lights are cheaper than security lights, use less energy, and have reduced glare. Vegetation may help screen the light at certain times of year provided the movement of vegetation itself does not trigger light.

There are no objective levels at which artificial light does or does not constitute a statutory nuisance. Depending on the circumstances it might be reasonable to expect a complainant to use curtains or blinds if they are bothered by unwanted light in their home.

With the right evidence we can take action - failure to comply with our notices can mean a fine of up to £5,000.

But before you report it to us:

  • record the problem with an accurate note of times and dates of nuisance and photographs if you can
  • speak to the light owner and see if you can reach a compromise

Lighting used on commercial premises will be subject to the same controls as apply to domestic premises, that is, it will be for us to decide whether the lighting amounts to a statutory nuisance.

Commercial premises are more likely than domestic premises to use lighting which makes a significant change to a building. It may therefore be subject to planning permission.

Premises or apparatus used for the provision of electronic communication services need adequate lighting for operation and security purposes, the safety of their staff, and to protect the integrity of the telecommunications network. Nuisance law recognises the need for industry to be able to carry out its usual functions without being compromised by inadequate security lighting. That need is protected by the defence of 'best practicable means'.

With the right evidence we can take action - failure to comply with our notices can mean a fine of up to £20,000.

But before you report it to us:

  • record the problem with an accurate note of times and dates of nuisance and photographs if you can
  • speak to the light owner and see if you can reach a compromise

Streetlights are not specifically exempt from statutory nuisance, but because of their location are unlikely to qualify, as generally speaking they are not found on 'premises'. It is, however, acknowledged that streetlights can have adverse effects on the local community.

Why information is on a different website
We are in the process of adding information to this new unitary council website. Some pages will give you a link back to a previous council website to help you find what you need. Read more about the changes.
Last updated 01 November 2021