What is Light Pollution?
Artificial light is essential in society and helps to promote security, reduce road accidents, permit outdoor working and sport at night and advertise commercial enterprises. However, poorly designed, excessive and badly aimed lighting can have an adverse environmental effect and cause problems for people in the local neighbourhood.
Light pollution is the intrusion of over bright or poorly directed lights onto neighbouring property, which affect the neighbours right to enjoy their own property. A typical example would be an inconsiderately directed security light shining into a bedroom window, which affects one's sleep.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 amended the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to bring artificial light from premises under the statutory nuisance regime as of 6 April 2006.
What if I am disturbed by light?
If you are being disturbed by artificial light and can identify the source, it is advisable to go direct to person responsible first and try to resolve the problem amicably.
If this approach fails, you should complaint to the Council who will investigate your complaint and initially try to resolve the matter informally.
Local authorities and people affected by light trespass will be able to take action should a statutory nuisance be deemed to exist, though there are specific exemptions for some transport and sports facilities.
There are no set levels of light above which a statutory nuisance is, or may be caused, nor below which it will not.
The light pollution must be affecting the "reasonable enjoyment" of one's property and does not take into account individuals' sensitivity to light.
DEFRA guidance on Statutory Nuisance from artificial light under s79 (1)(fb) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 states "artificial light emitted from a premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance" is a statutory nuisance.
Artificial light is a statutory nuisance under this section if:
(a) it is a nuisance i.e. the light has a material adverse impact on the "ordinary physical comfort of human existence" or
(b) the light is prejudicial to health
The test for what constitutes a "nuisance" under the above legislation and therefore is a statutory nuisance under the same section is the same as a common law test, namely the act of complained of "…is an inconvenience materially interfering with the ordinary physical comfort of human existence". In addition to this, the reasonableness of the act/omission complained of, must be determined by factors that include:
- intensity and time of offending activity,
- sensitivity of the complainant
- and nature of the locality.
Some types premises require high levels of light for safety and / or security reasons. Consequently, the legislation does not apply to artificial light emitted from the following premises:
- Bus stations and associated facilities
- Goods vehicle operating centres
- Railway premises
- Tramway premises
- Public service vehicle operating centres
- Premises occupied for Defence premises
While street lighting is not specifically exempted it is unlikely to constitute an artificial light nuisance, as it is not usually found on "premises" as defined in the legislation. Should you have any queries regarding street lighting please contact Bucks County on 0845 3708090 and they will advise you further.
The legislation also offers a statutory defence of "best practicable means" that relates to:
- artificial light emitted from industrial, trade or business premises
- artificial light emitted by lights used for the purpose of illuminating an outdoor relevant sports facility
In this instance the business premises must satisfy a court that "best practicable means" have been taken to prevent or mitigate the effects of the light nuisance.
Remember that for the artificial light to be a statutory nuisance the light must be excessive or producing an unreasonable level of light for the area and must be affecting you in your property e.g. the light directly illuminates your bedroom window.
What other options do I have?
The Case Officer may judge that the light you are complaining about is disturbing/annoying, but unlikely to be classed as a statutory nuisance as defined in the legislation.
Alternatively, mediation may be the best method to resolve the problem informally with your neighbours. We strongly recommended that you consider this option. And should you wish to uptake this facility, we can recommend Mediation Buckinghamshire website: www.mediationbucks.org.uk
telephone 01494 520821
When informal action is not possible or fails, you should complain to your Local Authority and they will investigate your complaint.
Once you make a formal complaint, you will be asked to complete diary log sheets, which should provide accurate details of
- A description of the light and how it affects you in your home or garden.
- The dates the light disturbs you.
- The times the light starts and then stops.
- The diary sheets should then be returned to us for analysis, and based on this evidence appropriate action will be taken. This may involve visits to your property to witness the disturbances you are experiencing.
If you wish to register a formal complaint, you can either complete the nuisance complaint online form
, or contact Environmental Health below.
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