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Oxford City Council

PO Box 10, Oxford, OX1 1EN
Tel 01865 249811
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Recycling and waste

Light pollution

Statutory nuisance: lighting

This is defined as "artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance". It constitutes a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (provision added by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005).

This does not apply to artificial light from the following:

  • airports
  • harbour premises
  • railway premises
  • tramway premises
  • bus stations and any associated facilities
  • public service vehicle operating centres
  • goods vehicle operating centres
  • lighthouses
  • prisons

Also, a statutory defence of "best practicable means" will be available to:

  • artificial light emitted from industrial, trade or business premises; and
  • artificial light emitted by lights used for the purpose only of illuminating an outdoor relevant sports facility

The lighting of many of these facilities is also covered by planning legislation.

However, few, if any, instances of this kind will fulfil the criteria of a "nuisance" given the specialist meaning of that word in the Act. That is not synonymous with "annoyance" and it is narrower than "nuisance" in common law. There is also no records of successful private litigation.

It does not concern aesthetics either. The statutory nuisances are essentially about public health and, while lights briefly turning on and off, triggered by cats and foxes, may be irritating to light sleeping people with thin curtains, they will rarely, if ever, be harmful.

How to avoid causing light pollution

  • Do not fit unnecessary lights.
  • Do not use excessively bright lights. A 150 watt tungsten halogen lamp is quite adequate, and 300 or 500 watt bulbs are too powerful for domestic security lighting.
  • 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.

Action against light pollution

If you are experiencing light pollution from your neighbours try approaching the owner, 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". You can also politely suggest to the owner that they may be wasting money on excessive lighting.

More Information

To report a problem with light pollution, contact us using the details in the 'Contact Us' menu at the top of this page or fill out our online form.

Report It iconReport light pollution problem online


Visit the Defra website for more details about light pollution.


Page last reviewed 13 February 2013

Environmental Protection Team

St Aldate's Chambers

109 St Aldate's

Oxford

OX1 1DS

01865 249811


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