Odour complaints

Many people are temporarily troubled by unpleasant smells from time to time, especially those living in rural areas. If an odour is very unpleasant or persistent and has a prolonged and serious impact on residents the Council may be able to demonstrate statutory nuisance and enforce a solution if necessary. Arun District Council has a duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to investigate cases where odour may be causing statutory nuisance. We routinely investigate odour complaints to determine whether regulatory intervention is required and offer advice on good practice for minimising or preventing odour problems.
If you would like to report an odour issue, please either use our report it eform or call 01903 737755.
Statutory Nuisance procedures under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 do not apply to odour arising on domestic premises and the only formal remedy may be civil action for private nuisance. A statutory odour nuisance is something that is so offensive and so prolonged that it significantly interferes with the enjoyment of an affected property. Judgement of whether or not an odour constitutes a statutory nuisance can take time, especially if the occurrence of the odour is unpredictable and only apparent for a short time.
Certain industrial activities are regulated under the Environmental Permitting scheme, in some other cases there may be controls over odour contained within a planning permission. In the majority of cases there is no specific legal control so investigations are pursued to determine whether a statutory odour nuisance is being caused.
If the Council is satisfied that odour is causing a statutory nuisance an Abatement Notice may be served requiring the person responsible to take action to control it. Where the nuisance arises from a business it is a defence for a person served with an Abatement Notice to demonstrate that they are employing the "best practicable means" to minimise the nuisance. Sometimes "best practicable means" are already in place and there is no further improvement that can be achieved.
If you wish to complain to the Environmental Health Department you may be asked to assist an investigation by keeping a written Nuisance complaint record of events.pdf [pdf] 116KB of what you smell, for how long and when the odour affects you. We will try to find the cause of the odour and examine what, if anything, can be done to minimise it.
In some circumstances Arun District Council may be unable to act on behalf of a person who has complained of odour nuisance, due to the type of problem, the circumstances of the case or lack of evidence. A range of independent action can be taken privately by individuals. This includes complaining directly to the Magistrates' Court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This rarely used procedure is simple and need not be expensive.

Odour from Muck Spreading

During the spring and in the summer after harvesting, Arun District Council frequently receives complaints concerning agricultural odours within the district. Generally, the most common source of odour complaints relate to the storing and spreading of bio-solids (sewage sludge), animal manure and slurries (muck spreading). The general practice of incorporating manures and bio-solids into agricultural land is a legitimate practice and is considered the best option for disposal. The spreading of pre-treated sewage sludge is also a perfectly lawful activity and considered the best practicable environmental option for disposal of such wastes.

Although spreading is recognised as standard agricultural practice, and odour must be expected from time to time, spreading should always be undertaken in accordance with the best practice guidance given in the DEFRA Code of Good Agricultural Practise.pdf [pdf] 847KB, subsection 5.4.  Best practice advice from DEFRA includes the following:-

If possible, to reduce odour and ammonia loss:-

  • Use a band spreader or injector to apply slurry.
  • Otherwise, use broadcast equipment with a low trajectory and large droplets.  Broadcast slurry (by splash plate) should be incorporated immediately, and at the latest within 6 hours.
  • If solid manure, it should be incorporated as soon as possible and at the latest within 24 hours.

Livestock manures should not be applied when:-

  • The soil is waterlogged; or
  • The soil is frozen hard; or the field is snow covered; or
  • Heavy rain is forecast within the next 48 hours.

The Code also advises that the best conditions for spreading are where air mixes to a great height above the ground, which are typically sunny, windy days, followed by cloudy, windy nights.  These conditions cause odours to be diluted quickly.
Farmers are also advised to avoid spreading at weekends, bank holidays, in the evening or in fields close to and upwind of houses, unless it is solid manure that has been well composted, or slurry that is to be band spread, injected or has been treated to reduce odour.
Livestock manures and dirty water should not be spread:-

  • Within 10 metres of any ditch, pond or surface water; or
  • Within 50 metres of any spring, well, borehole or reservoir that supplies water for human consumption or for farm dairies; or
  • On very steep slopes where run-off is a high risk throughout the year

As there is a great deal of working farmland within Arun, agricultural odours can be a problem with prevailing winds, carrying these odours some distance across fields into residential areas and at times this may result in acceptable short term agricultural odours within the area.  The duration and intensity of the odour is often difficult to predict depending on weather conditions.  However, if we become aware of unacceptable odours produced by spreading agricultural materials in a manner which does not follow the Code of Good Agricultural Practice, an officer will contact the person(s) responsible for the spreading and enforcement action can be considered where the issue cannot be resolved informally.


Here are some frequently asked questions

How often can someone muck spread? There is no limit.

Can they do it two days in a row? Yes.

How much can they spread? Please contact the Environment Agency on 0800 807060 or email on enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

Who can muck spread? There is no definite answer but some operations may need a licence which is issued by the Environment Agency.  Please contact the Environment Agency on the number above.

Where and what can be spread? Check notes above which will give some answers but for more information, please contact the Environment Agency.

Are there any times spreading is not allowed? No.

How valid is the guidance? It is purely guidance.  It is not law but the Council would have more of a case for enforcement if the guidance has not been followed.

We will not usually consider complaints unless the odour persists for at least 72 hours after spreading has been completed / delivery of the odorous materials to site.