South Cambridgeshire Logo
My South Cambs:
Sign in or register
Black icon - pollution


Report a nuisance complaint

Nuisance from odour

Section 79(1) of the Environmental Protection Act requires the local authority to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to investigate complaints that relate to:

  • Fumes or gases from dwellings
  • Waste by-products from industrial or trade or business premises
  • Accumulations or deposits

Types of odour

Whilst easily detectable, annoying, disagreeable and troublesome, not all odours give rise to a statutory nuisance. There may be insufficient evidence to prove that the odour is unreasonable enough to cause a nuisance or that despite someone's best intentions, the nature of the work they are undertaking means that the odour is unavoidable. This may seem unfair, however in such situations, Environmental Health Departments have no powers to pursue a course of formal action. Environmental Health Departments must consider the following:

1. Odour from commercial processes

Any industrial or commercial operation has a defence against statutory nuisance known as 'the Best Practicable Means' defence. This means that if they are doing everything within their financial means and within the scope of current technical knowledge to prevent causing a problem, establishing a statutory nuisance would be unlikely.

2. Authorised Processes

In the case of a business with an authorisation, it is the compliance with the authorisation that is assessed rather than if a nuisance exists.

3. Odour from the land

In dealing with complaints relating to the spreading of manure or slurry on the land, Environmental Health Departments follow the informal advice provided by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which is that 'manure or similar should be ploughed in within 72 hours of it being spread.' It is accepted that there is to be a certain degree of odour arising from this activity. If odour is experienced after this period and its source is identifiable, Environmental Health Departments can investigate to establish whether it is causing a statutory nuisance.

If you are concerned about odours from the sewerage works in Milton please contact Anglian Water on their hotline 08457 145145. Say that the smell is from the Cambridge Water Recycling Centre, Cowley Road and quote the short code for the site which is: CAMBST.

If you are experiencing odours from the Milton landfill site or the Amey Cespa waste site in Waterbeach, please contact the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60 (24-hour service). It is advisable to call at the time the odours are actually occurring.