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Light nuisance

Wiltshire Council has the duty to take reasonable steps to investigate complaints about light causing a statutory nuisance. Domestic and commercial security lights and sports facilities generate the most light complaints across Wiltshire.

A statutory light nuisance is determined under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The legal definition of what constitutes a statutory nuisance is complex and based on many years of case law.
There are no set levels for light to be considered a statutory nuisance. We will need to consider the following key factors when investigating a light nuisance:
• The light must substantially affect the enjoyment of comfortable living, such as prevention of sleep.
• Is the light likely to affect the average person (unusual sensitivities aren’t included)
• How often it happens
• When it happens
• How long it lasts
• Whether it is in the town or country
• Whether the light remains a problem with curtains or blinds closed. The expectation in law is that that a person uses blinds/curtains to block out light at night.

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The law identifies some exempt premises where, because of their nature and importance to the community some external lighting may be required to prevent crime, disorder and safety hazards. Exempt sources include: airports, railway premises, bus stations, defence facilities, prisons and goods vehicle operating centres.
There is a defence for all trade, business or outdoor sports facilities that the best practical means is being taken to prevent light nuisance.

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Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to speak to the person or business responsible for the light. They may not realise they are causing a problem and the issue may be resolved quickly this way.
If you wish to complain to the council about a light problem you will be asked to keep a record, over a period of days or weeks, of the impact of the light, dates, times and duration of impact. Officers may also make visits in an attempt to witness the light. Officers will usually undertake a maximum of three visits to substantiate your complaint.  If after the three visits no nuisance has been established, the council will close the investigation.

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Having considered all the evidence, the investigation will result in one of the following courses of action:
a) No further action if no nuisance is substantiated
b) Informal advice.
c) Service of formal statutory notice to abate the nuisance requiring the organisation responsible to take remedial action.
If an abatement notice is served and not complied with legal action may be taken through the Courts.
Enforcement will be carried out in accordance with public protection enforcement policy.

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Simple Solutions for resolving a domestic security light complaint:

• Reduce the wattage of the bulb(s)
• Provide baffles
• Direct the lighting fixtures down below the horizontal plane or away from neighbouring property
• Reduce the number of fixtures
• Reduce the height
• Reduce the time period for which they operate.
• Reduce the sensitivity of the light trigger


The Institute of Lighting Professionals provide guidance about how to minimise obtrusive lighting.

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Last updated: 15 November 2016 | Last reviewed: 15 November 2016