Agenda item - Statutory Nuisances - Briefing Report

Agenda item

Statutory Nuisances - Briefing Report


The Board received a briefing report on Statutory Nuisances.


The Environmental Health and Trading Standards Manager, Worcestershire Regulatory Services, (WRS), informed the Board that, it was the statutory duty of every local authority to cause its area to be inspected from time to time to detect any statutory nuisance under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  A statutory nuisance is something that affects a person’s health or causes disturbance to them in their property.


It was also a requirement to take such steps as were reasonably practicable to investigate complaints about issues that could be a ‘statutory nuisance’ made by a person living within the local authorities’ area.


WRS achieved this through the use of intelligence, by responding to service requests and officers identifying nuisances during the course of their normal duties.


Members were reminded that at the WRS Board meeting on 5th October 2017, officers had highlighted the increasing expectations of members of the general public with regard to what local authorities and services like WRS could achieve in relation to complaints of nuisance by other members of the public.  This level of expectation was increasingly challenging for WRS given its capacity and other demands placed on the service.


Page 28 in the report, detailed statutory nuisances as defined in Section 70 (1) (a-h) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  Whilst these were wide ranging in many ways, there were a limited number of issues that WRS could investigate in respect issues being a potential statutory nuisance.  Pages 28 and 29 in the report provided information on what was not a statutory nuisance.


Members were further informed that the courts must be convinced that the alleged nuisance substantially interfered with a personal comfort rather than a person’s land, physical possessions or the effect on such things as property values.  Case law directed that the concept of nuisance was to protect public health and not to deal with irritations.


For this reason WRS officers had to consider many elements of the complaint and how it impacted on the individual’s life.  It was important to realise that the fact that something caused annoyance did not in itself amount to a statutory nuisance.  For something to amount to an actionable statutory nuisance two conditions had to be met:-


·         It must cause significant interference to the normal occupation of premises by a person of average sensitivity, and

·         It must be caused by some unreasonable or unusual act or omission or behaviour.


Page 30 in the report detailed a number of factors that officers had to consider when investigating complaints.


When officers were considering the source of a nuisance they had to consider the source in isolation.  A statutory nuisance was a single issue and could not be made up of a number of single sources that cumulatively added up to a nuisance.


Where a nuisance could be identified the local authority must serve notice.  In theory the local authority had no discretion in this, however, WRS would often take steps to try and resolve as issue where a simple change of behaviour could facilitate this.


The legal bar for issuing an abatement notice was set high as it was the initial stage in criminalising someone’s behaviour.  The problem had to be assessed by an officer as the Court would deem them to be an expert witness and independent.


Where a problem was investigated and found not to be a statutory nuisance, for fairness to both parties the investigation would be terminated.  There were occasions, and even the Local Government Ombudsman accepted this, that a reasonable investigation may not always gather the evidence necessary to prove a statutory nuisance.  For this reason Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 gave an individual the power to take their own action by way of complaint to the Magistrates’ Court. 


Page 31 in the report provided information on the current model for determining statutory nuisance.


The Environmental Health and Trading Standards Manager, WRS, highlighted that there was an increasing tendency to challenge professional opinion where notices were issued.  Changes to the fines structure in the Magistrates’ Court meant that there were now unlimited fines available for some nuisance offences, so some businesses would be more willing to challenge the initial notice to try to limit their risk of future prosecution.


Additional resources were regularly deployed to manage the annual spike in nuisance complaints which typically occurred through the summer months.  Efficiencies had already been achieved in the provision of the service which included more cross-discipline working by officers and the move to initial self-help for non-business related complaints, compensating for a reduction in the number officers in the Community Environmental Health Team.  Should the trend in increasing numbers and complexity of service requests be continued, along with the added expectation and increased challenge from recipients of notices, then additional capacity would be required to meet this demand.


Members agreed that the briefing was informative and an easy document to read and asked that officers created a vision of it that they could use to inform other Members at the partner authorities.


RESOLVED that the Statutory Nuisances briefing be noted.

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