Light pollution is defined as 'artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance', and is classed as a statutory nuisance.
However, few incidents fulfill the criteria of a 'nuisance' given the specialist meaning of that word in the law. It is not the same as 'annoyance' and it is narrower than 'nuisance' in common law.
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.
The rules around light pollution do not apply to artificial light from:
- harbour premises
- railway premises
- tramway premises
- bus stations and any associated facilities
- public service vehicle operating centres
- goods vehicle operating centres
Also, a statutory defence of 'best practicable means' will be available to:
- artificial light emitted from industrial, trade or business premises
- 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.
Report a problem
How to avoid causing light pollution
The best way to tackle light pollution is to avoid causing it:
- 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
How to resolve light pollution problems yourself
If you are experiencing light pollution from your neighbours try approaching the owner, politely requesting they:
- re-angle or partial shade the light
- fit a passive infra red sensor
- use a lower power bulb
It might help if you can show the neighbour the effect of the light from your property. You can also politely suggest to the owner that they may be wasting money on excessive lighting.