Odour nuisance

Most of us are troubled by unpleasant smells at some time. If the smell does not go on for a prolonged period or is not too unpleasant we can usually cope.

North Kesteven District Council has a duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to investigate and take action, where necessary, to deal with odour causing a statutory nuisance. A statutory nuisance includes “any smell arising on industrial, trade or business premises and being prejudicial to health or a nuisance”.

The types of problems that we are able to deal with are restricted to the following:

  • Fumes from boilers
  • Smoke from bonfires or chimneys
  • Accumulations of waste (dog faeces, food items)
  • Odour arising from the manner in which animals are kept
  • Filthy premises
  • Odour from industrial, trade or business premises

Smells originating from domestic properties, such as from cooking or smoking odours, are not in themselves covered by the Act. However, if the smell is arising from an accumulation of something like food waste or dog faeces as then that is covered.

A Statutory Nuisance is something which is so offensive and so prolonged that it significantly interferes with the use and enjoyment of an affected property.

The presence of an odour in itself does not mean it amounts to a Statutory Nuisance. In addition smell is not something that can be measured and there is no set level where an odour becomes a nuisance. The chemicals that give rise to smell are normally at exceedingly low levels and sensitivity to smell varies considerably between individuals.

Several factors are taken into account when considering whether or not an odour constitutes a Statutory Nuisance including:

  • Severity
  • Nature of smell
  • Duration
  • Frequency
  • Time of day the odour is present
  • Whether or not it interferes with the ‘average’ person’s reasonable use and enjoyment of their property.

Judgement of whether or not an odour constitutes a Statutory Nuisance can take time especially if the occurrence of the smell is unpredictable and only apparent for short periods of time.

All assessments of a statutory odour nuisance carried out by North Kesteven District Council will be dealt with subjectively based on the evidence gathered during our investigation.

You will be required to keep a record, over a period of time, of what you can smell, for how long and what time of day. NKDC will then use this information to determine if there is any pattern to the problem and then seek to find the cause and resolve the issue. You can download our odour monitoring forms.

If the odour is found to be giving rise to a Statutory Nuisance then an abatement notice requiring the person responsible to take remedial action may be served.

Sometimes, however, there is nothing further that can be done. You should be aware that if you live close to sewage works, farmland on which slurry is spread, 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 is check that the company responsible is taking reasonable steps to minimise the odours.

You can report an odour issue or nuisance online.

Agricultural odours information

During the spring and in the summer after harvesting, NKDC 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). Generally the practice of incorporating manures and bio-solids into agricultural land is a legitimate 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 a 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 Practice for farmers, growers and land managers, subsection 5.4:

To reduce odour and ammonia loss, DEFRA advises the following:

  • 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.

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

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.

There is a large amount of working farmland within Lincolnshire, and therefore 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?


How much can they spread?

Please contact the Environment Agency on 0800 807060 or send an email to 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?


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 24 hours after spreading has been completed.