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Smell / odour pollution

Although complaints due to offensive odours are not as common as complaints about smoke or noise, they can still be investigated.

The chemicals which give rise to odours are normally detectable at very low levels and cannot generally be measured by way of instruments. When carrying out an investigation of an odour complaint it is a myth that an electronic measuring device is used to determine the type of odour and its concentration. Unfortunately, this is not true. Odours are very complex and the most efficient device we have to smell an odour is our own nose. Sensitively to odour will vary considerably between individuals and any judgement of whether or not an odour constitutes a nuisance can take time as we must visit to try to witness the smell.

If we are satisfied that someone is causing a nuisance, a legal notice can be served on the person responsible requiring them to stop causing the nuisance.

Failure to comply with the notice is an offence for which they can be prosecuted.

Muck spreading

Muck spreading is a lawful activity and as such some odours should be tolerated. Farmers are expected to follow best practice when spreading muck in their fields. We would not formally take action from the smell of manure spreading unless the smell carries on longer or smells stronger and is causing a statutory nuisance. To be a statutory nuisance the odour must be substantial, significant, continuous and have a material impact on a complainant in their property.

The spreading of sewage sludge (biosolids) is a regulated activity controlled by the Environment Agency. The application of sewage sludge inevitably results in the presence of offensive odours. We do not have any direct jurisdiction with respect to preventing application of these materials to agricultural land and so we are therefore unable to intervene with respect to any odours if best practice has been followed. It is generally found that where best practice has been applied then any odours from the application will diminish significantly within a relatively short period of time. We therefore endeavour to work with the regulator and other parties involved to ensure that the activity is in undertaken in accordance with best practice as far as practicable. 

Last updated 04 July 2023