Artificial light has many uses: as the illumination of streets and hazardous areas, as 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.
Light nuisance may constitute a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (provision added by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 - see link on this page).
What is light pollution?
Light pollution is best described as artificial light that is illuminating or polluting areas not intended to be lit. It is intrusive and referred to as the “tresspass” of light.
From 6 April 2006, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 amended the definition of statutory nuisance to include artificial light emitted from premises if it is prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
This does not apply to artificial light from:
- an airport
- harbour premises
- railway premises
- tramway premises
- a bus station and any associated facilities
- a public service vehicle operating centre
- a goods vehicle operating centre
- a lighthouse
- a prison
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 sports facility.
The lighting of many of these facilities is also currently controllable under planning legislation, leaving the focus of the new provision on domestic security lighting.
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. This is not about aesthetics, rather that statutory nuisances are essentially about public health, and, whilst cats and foxes briefly triggering lights may be irritating to light sleeping people with thin curtains, they will rarely, if ever, be harmful or injurious to health. In addition, “sky glow” as a result of artificial light will not be a "nuisance".
How to prevent light pollution
Before going to the expense and effort of installing lights, consider the following points:
- Is 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?
- Install the right amount for the task - for 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 persons 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
- Do not install equipment which spreads light above the horizontal
What can I do if I have a problem?
Quite often the person being complained about is simply unaware of the problem existing, and an informal approach initially by the person affected will in most cases resolve the situation.
In most cases all that is required is the proper placement of fixings, sensors, lights and shielding accessories, or replacement by lower wattage lights.
My neighbour has security lights that I don't like, what can I do?
You could try speaking to them to see if you can resolve the matter informally by ensuring that the lights are correctly adjusted and do not throw light onto a neighbouring property. The Environmental Health team can also deal with light nuisance, however, unless the light is shining directly into a window at night and that normal curtains do not keep it out, it is unlikely to be considered a statutory nuisance.
A street light is shining into my bedroom window. Can anything be done?
In order for a statutory nuisance to exist the problem must come from a premise. Highway land is not defined as premises and therefore in general this type of lighting is unlikely to be a statutory nuisance. For street lighting, or to report light coming from a premise nearby you can contact our Customer Service Centre
Action against light pollution
If you are experiencing light pollution from your neighbours, try approaching the owner of the offending light, politely requesting:
- re-angling or partial shading of the light
- fitting of a passive infrared 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.
Note: lights do not always deter criminals (the main insurers do not offer any reductions in premiums for exterior lighting).
- Advice on installing domestic security lighting can be found at the Institute of Lighting Engineers website
- General information can be found at the DEFRA website
- To discuss any of the above, or for further information, please contact us