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Smells and odours

Odours and unpleasant smells

Wiltshire Council has the duty to take reasonable steps to investigate complaints about odour causing a statutory nuisance. A statutory odour nuisance is defined in the Environmental Protection Act as ‘any smell arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance’. The legislation does not enable us to investigate smells from domestic premises.

A statutory nuisance is something which is so offensive and so prolonged that it significantly interferes with the enjoyment of an affected property. The chemicals which give rise to smell are normally at exceedingly low levels and sensitivity to smell varies very considerably between individuals. Judgement of whether or not a smell constitutes a statutory nuisance can, therefore, take time especially if the occurrence of the smell is unpredictable and only apparent for short periods of time.


Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to speak to the person or business responsible for the smell. They may not realise they are causing a problem and the issue may be resolved quickly this way.

If you wish to complain to the council about a smell you will be asked to keep a record, over a period of days or weeks, of what you can smell, for how long and at what time of day. The council will then use this information to try and establish if there is any pattern to the problem. We may also make visits in an attempt to witness the smell. Officers will usually undertake a maximum of three visits to substantiate your complaint.

If after the three visits no nuisance has been established, the council will close the investigation.


Having considered all the evidence, the investigation will result in one of the following courses of action:
a) No further action if no nuisance is substantiated
b) Informal advice. If you live close to a sewage works, farmland on which slurry is spread or refuse tip or certain other smelly activities you may be able to smell those activities from time to time. All the council can do in those circumstances is require the operator to do what they reasonably can to minimise those smells.
c) Service of formal statutory notice to abate the nuisance requiring the organisation responsible to take remedial action

If an abatement notice is served and not complied with legal action may be taken through the Courts.
Enforcement will be carried out in accordance with Public Protections Enforcement Policy.


Nuisance - How to take your own legal action

If the local authority is unable to substantiate a statutory nuisance you are able to take your own action against the person/organisation responsible

Information about out to do this can be found on the How to take your own legal action page.

Exhaust Fumes

Motor vehicles are a major source of air pollution. The type of car and the way that you drive it can have significant effects upon the levels of resultant pollution.

Following the rules below will help to reduce pollution from your car:

  1. Undertake regular maintenance on your car.
  2. Reduce or eliminate unnecessary journeys.
  3. Drive gently.
  4. Drive more slowly.
  5. If stationary in traffic for more than a minute, switch your engine off.

Remember: More fuel is used if you drive erratically (racing starts, sudden start-stops), or use your car for short journeys (particularly if cold). To ease the pressure on your pocket and the environment, do your bit to reduce motor pollution.


Report excessively smoky lorries and buses to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).


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Last updated: 22 December 2016 | Last reviewed: 22 December 2016