Investigating nuisance complaints

Burnley Borough Council’s Environmental Protection Team will investigate complaints of nuisance which may arise from the following: 

If you consider one of the above to be unreasonable, we recommend that in the first instance you speak to the person or business responsible. They may not be aware they are causing a problem and may be able to resolve the matter without difficulty.

Where this approach has failed or you feel uncomfortable approaching the business or individual responsible then our Environmental Protection Team can investigate nuisance complaints under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to determine whether or not a Statutory Nuisance exists.

When a complaint is made to the Council regarding a nuisance, an Officer will send a letter to you along with diary sheets, you will be asked to keep a record, normally for up to a period of 6 weeks, of what you can smell, see, hear etc. and for how long and at what time of day the nuisance may occur.

The Council will then use this information to determine if there is any pattern to the problem and then seek to find the cause and resolve the issue. The information on the diary sheets will also indicate whether or not it is likely to amount to a Statutory Nuisance and will also indicate the times when an officer is most likely to witness the nuisance. 

If the nuisance is found to be giving rise to a statutory nuisance then ultimately an abatement notice requiring the person responsible to take remedial action may be served.

In rare cases where the notice is not complied with and the problem still persists, legal proceedings may follow. It should be noted that Commercial and Industrial Premises have a legal defence known as ‘Best Practicable Means’ and it may not be possible to stop a nuisance arising from such premises completely. However, we can control it to an acceptable level.

This procedure can take time but it is designed to be fair to everyone concerned.

Statutory nuisance relies on the concept of the average person i.e. does the nuisance interfere with the “average” person’s reasonable enjoyment of their property. In other words, an unpleasant odour or a noise in someone’s garden in the winter that does not enter their house or is not audible inside the house would not constitute a statutory nuisance as the “average” person would not be expected to spend significant periods of time in their garden during cold weather. However, during warmer weather they are more likely to be in the garden and therefore the same odour or noise would be more likely to constitute a statutory nuisance.


The identity of someone contacting the Council about a nuisance is treated as confidential and the general public will not have access to names and addresses. However, it may be necessary to reveal the identity of a complainant to support the Council’s case if formal legal action is necessary. In these cases the Council will give prior notification before the case gets to this stage.

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