Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Good practice to avoid causing nuisance

How to avoid causing a nuisance

You may have to pay compensation for any damage caused if you create a public or private nuisance. If you cause a statutory nuisance your local council may make you carry out, or pay for, work to stop or reduce the nuisance.

Good practice

Avoid causing nuisances

Make sure that your business activities are not:

  • damaging, or likely to damage, people's health
  • preventing or interfering with people's rightful use and enjoyment of land
  • interfering with public space and public land.

If you identify any nuisance you should take all reasonable steps to prevent or minimise it. To avoid causing a nuisance, you should:

  • check your site for waste or evidence of vermin regularly
  • check noise, odours and other emissions at the boundary, and in the locality, of your site - do this during different operating conditions and at different times of the day
  • ensure operations are managed in a controlled and consistent manner, and in accordance with all relevant permits, licences and registered waste exemptions
  • keep your site clean
  • tell your staff why they need to avoid creating a nuisance, and how they can do this.

You should ensure that nuisance events do not become persistent and regular as this is more likely to result in legal action.

Try to maintain good relations with your neighbours. Give neighbours early warning of any particular activities that you plan to carry out, such as building work or installing new plant.

Notify your local environmental health department, and either your:

  • local Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) office
  • local Scottish Environment Protection Agency office

in advance of any event that is likely to generate a nuisance that may cause complaints.

Display details of a contact person for your site so that local residents know who to contact with any concerns and you can deal with them quickly.

Deal with complaints about nuisances

If you receive a complaint make sure you:

  • keep a record of the complaint
  • investigate the complaint, eg check the activity operation and the boundary of the site
  • deal with it promptly and appropriately, and tell the complainer what actions you have taken
  • record the results of investigations and any resulting actions
  • use the information to improve your procedures and prevent further complaints.

You may want to inform your local environmental health department and your local NIEA or SEPA office of any complaints, depending on the nature of the complaint and what your permits, licences or registered waste exemptions require.

If a complaint is made to your local council, an environmental health officer will assess if you have caused a statutory nuisance. If a complaint is made to the NIEA or SEPA, officers will assess if you have breached your permit conditions.

Ask your local council's environmental health officer and the NIEA or SEPA to inform you of any concerns or complaints they receive. You may be able to deal with these complaints before formal action is taken.

Contact your local council

Contact your environmental regulator

Considerate Constructors Scheme

In this Guideline

Types of nuisance

Good practice to avoid causing nuisance

Noise and vibration nuisances

Odour, dust and smoke nuisances

Litter nuisances

Artificial light nuisance

Construction site nuisances

Environmental legislation for nuisances

Environmental News Blog

  • A day with Hydrology, SEPA's hydrometry unit is responsible for around 400 gauging stations and 350 rainfall monitoring sites. River gauging stations are important as they allow river levels to be monitored so flood events can be predicted and flood warnings sent out.

  • Brewing and Distilling Technical Drop-in Day: Waste, Water, Energy, Brewing and Distilling is booming due to high demand for quality Scottish beers and spirits. All this growth is also leading to a boom in food waste, energy and water use.

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms