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Light nuisance

Under the law, light emitted from premises used for transport purposes, or other premises where high levels of light are required for safety or security reasons is not considered a light problem. For example:

  • Airports
  • Public service vehicle operating centres
  • Harbours
  • Goods vehicle operating centres
  • Railway premises
  • Lighthouses
  • Tramway premises
  • Prisons
  • Bus stations and associated facilities
  • Premises occupied for Defence purposes

Also, a statutory defence of 'best practicable means' will be available for:

  • Artificial light emitted from industrial, trade or business premises; and
  • Artificial light emitted by lights used for the purpose only of illuminating an outdoor relevant sports facility.

The Statutory Nuisances (Artificial Lighting) (Designation of Relevant Sports) (England) Order 2006 provides a list of 'relevant sports' and is available on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

The lighting of many of the facilities listed above may be controlled by planning legislation, either at the development stage (on the basis that ‘prevention is better than cure’), or by enforcement action in the case of un-permitted development.

Street lights

Report a faulty street light

Although streetlights are not specifically exempted, they are unlikely to qualify as artificial light nuisance since, generally speaking, they are not found on 'premises'.

It is anticipated therefore, that the focus of the new provision will be on domestic security lighting. However, care must be taken when determining artificial light from this source to be a statutory nuisance. Few instances of this kind will fulfil the criteria, given the specialist meaning of that word in the 1990 Act. It is not the same as "annoyance", and it is narrower than "nuisance" in common law. It is not about aesthetics either; the statutory nuisances are essentially about public health, and there must be material interference with property or personal comfort. Whilst lights briefly turning on and off (triggered by cats for example) may be irritating, they may not necessarily be considered a statutory nuisance.

Determining a statutory artificial light issue

There are no set levels of light above which a statutory nuisance is, or may be caused, nor below which it will not. The environmental health officer will take account of a range of factors including:

  • Duration
  • Frequency
  • Impact – ie material interference with use of property or personal comfort
  • Local environment – ie nature and character
  • Motive – ie unreasonable behaviour or commonplace action
  • Sensitivity of the plaintiff - statutory nuisance relies on the perception of the average person on the street, and is not designed to take account of extreme sensibilities, age or health etc.

If you are installing outdoor lighting, first consider

  • Is the lighting really necessary?
  • Will the light affect others? (consider the direction of the beam, and prevent “light spill” onto neighbouring properties)
  • Do the lights need to be on all of the time?
  • Could security be better achieved in another way?
  • Where sensors are used to trigger lights, are these able to be set to avoid accidental triggering?
  • Is the proposed lighting too powerful for the intended use?
  • There are energy savings to be made by using less powerful lamps and restricting the time that they are switched on
  • Is the light directed downwards?

You may have good reasons to install exterior lighting on your property but always consider your actions carefully, and take steps to prevent it from becoming a nuisance. It is normally possible to set up lights without them upsetting other people.

Please view the following guidance notes from the Institute of Lighting Professionals about the reduction of obtrusive light.

If you are affected by lighting issues from your neighbours

As with other nuisance problems, if you are affected by light nuisance it is advisable to approach the lighting owner, in the first instance, outlining your concerns. There may be a straightforward solution through minor adjustments to the lighting system that will resolve the problem. Often the lighting owner may not be aware that their system is giving rise to a problem.

First, try approaching the owner of the offending light, perhaps politely requesting:

  • re-angling or partial shading of the light
  • fitting of a passive infra red sensor
  • using a lower power bulb

It might help if you can show the neighbour the effect of the light from "your side of the fence".

Making a complaint about a lighting issue

If negotiation with your neighbour fails to bring an acceptable solution please use our contact us form to let us know.

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