Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Odour, dust and smoke nuisances

Odour, dust and smoke nuisances

Odour, dust or smoke from your business activities could be considered a nuisance. If you fail to deal with a nuisance problem you could face legal action and a fine. Your local council could restrict or stop your business activities. You should find ways to limit the amount of odour, dust and smoke you create to avoid causing a nuisance.

What you must do

Permit and exemption conditions

If you have a pollution prevention and control permit, waste management licence or a waste exemption, it may have conditions that control emissions, such as smoke, dust or odour. You must comply with all of the conditions in your permit, licence or exemption. If you don't comply your regulator:

  • in Northern Ireland the NIEA or your district council
  • in Scotland SEPA

can take enforcement action against you, such as issuing you with an enforcement notice or a suspension notice for breach of a condition.

See our guideline: Environmental permits and licences - an overview.

Avoid odour nuisances

Certain odours can be considered a nuisance. To determine whether an odour is a statutory nuisance, or whether it is in breach of permit or licence conditions or your registered waste exemption, an environmental health officer from your local council, or NIEA or SEPA officer will assess:

  • its intensity
  • its character - easily recognised odours are often a greater nuisance
  • its source and the prevailing weather conditions, eg wind direction and speed
  • the time and duration of its release
  • its intensity of effect - how annoying, intrusive or offensive it is
  • whether the odour would be expected in that location
  • what measures are required to stop the cause of the nuisance.

Assess whether odours are likely to be emitted from your site and the most likely sources, and put appropriate control measures in place. Make this a part of your routine site inspections.

Control or stop the odour at its source. You should be able to demonstrate that you follow good practice in your operations and that you have used the most effective means to prevent an odour nuisance.

Avoid dust and smoke nuisances

Do not use bonfires to burn waste - you could be committing an offence. Instead find ways to reuse, recover, recycle or correctly dispose of your waste.

Reduce, reuse and recycle your business waste

If you must burn waste, follow legal requirements to avoid committing an offence. See our guideline: Burning waste - your environmental responsibilities

Keep equipment that reduces dust and smoke emissions, such as filters and cyclones, in good working order. Make sure that where dust is collected it is emptied on a frequent basis and disposed of correctly.

Make sure boilers, especially oil or solid fuel units, are operating efficiently and do not emit excessive smoke.

See our guideline: Preventing air pollution.

You can plant shrubs and trees in belts around the edge of your premises to help screen out dust and smoke pollution, but this should not be used in place of suitable process control or specialised equipment.

Further information

DAERA: Air pollution and smoke control

Environmental Protection UK: Air quality guidance

Scottish Government: Statutory nuisance

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

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