Artificial light nuisance

Artificial light has many uses: the illumination of streets and hazardous areas, security lighting, and to increase the hours of usage for outdoor recreation facilities, but it can cause problems. Light in the wrong place can be intrusive.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 amended the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to bring artificial light from premises under the Statutory Nuisance regime as of 6 April 2006. Statutory Nuisance however does not apply to artificial light from:

  • airports
  • bus stations and associated facilities
  • goods vehicle operating centres
  • harbours
  • lighthouses
  • railway premises
  • tramway premises
  • prisons
  • public service vehicle operating centres
  • premises occupied for defence premises

Preventing light pollution

Points to consider before going to the expense and effort of installing lights:

  • is the lighting necessary
  • could safety/security be achieved by other measures such as the screening of an area
  • do the lights have to be on all night

Installing artificial light

Install the right amount for the task - for a domestic security light a 150w lamp is usually adequate. High power (300/500w) lamps create too much glare reducing security. For an all night porch light a 9w lamp is more than adequate in most situations.

Correctly adjusted lights only illuminate the surface intended and do not throw light onto neighbouring property. Set the angles of all main beam lights to below 70 degrees.

Make sure security lights are adjusted so that they only pick up movement of people in the area intended and not beyond.

Direct light downwards. If up lighting has to be used then install shields or baffles above the lamp to reduce the amount of wasted upward light.

If you are affected by nuisance lighting from your neighbours

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

Unless the light is shining directly into a window at night and normal curtains do not keep it out, it is unlikely to be considered a statutory nuisance.

Highway land is not defined as premises and therefore, in general this type of lighting is unlikely to be a Statutory Nuisance.

Despite the above, the team is aware that there are occasions when it’s not practical or possible, for whatever reason, to speak to your neighbour or you may have tried this approach and it hasn’t worked. In this instance you can contact the Environmental Protection Team either by email or via the telephone number 0300 123 5015.

Further information