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Nuisance from artificial light

Nuisance from artificial light

Nuisance from artificial light can be addressed if it is emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance. Note that it has to be emitted from premises so normal street lighting would not be dealt with.

It also does not include light emitted from premises used for transport purposes or where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons, 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 purpose

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, reduce security 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.

There are no set levels of light above which a statutory nuisance occurs and the judgement as to nuisance is essentially subjective although it may be backed up with light readings. The light pollution must be affecting the "reasonable enjoyment" of one's property and does not take into account individuals' sensitivity to light. 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. Just being able to see the light would not constitute a nuisance.

DEFRA guidance on Statutory Nuisance from artificial light can be found under Section 79.

How to avoid causing light pollution

  • do not fit unnecessary lights

  • do not use excessively bright lights; use the least powerful light needed for the purpose

  • do not leave lights on when they are not needed, consider controlling lights with passive infra-red detectors, ensuring that they are correctly aligned and installed (for a porch light that is going to be left on all night, a nine-watt compact fluorescent lamp is normally adequate)

  • when aiming floodlights make sure you only light the area that needs lighting (the aim of the floodlight can easily be checked at night when you can see the actual area being lit)

  • be careful not to put light onto other people's properties or into windows, as this can be very upsetting and a constant source of complaint.

Advice and recommended installation methods to minimise obtrusive security lighting can be found in the following guidance notes from The Institution of Lighting Engineers.

Institute of Lighting Domestic Security Lighting Friend or Foe

The Law Relating to Statutory Nuisance

How to make a complaint

The quickest way to report a nuisance complaint is by completing this online form