Many environmental protection, housing and public health matters are dealt with using the law of Statutory Nuisance. This deals with the unreasonable interference with the ability of someone to enjoy their property. It is subjective, or a matter of judgement.
Statutory Nuisance cannot deal with lower level annoyance, frustration or inconvenience and cannot be used for safety related issues. It cannot take into account the needs or wishes of a particularly sensitive person, instead looking at how it would affect any normal member of the public.
There are three information leaflets available which explain this in more detail:
- The law of Statutory Nuisance (Summary) PH07a [55KB] ;
- The law of Statutory Nuisance (Detailed) PH07b [133KB] (an expanded version of PH07a); and
- Fixed Penalty Notices (Statutory Nuisance) PH15 [56KB]
Duties on Local Authorities
Local Authorities must:
- inspect their areas for statutory nuisances which should be dealt with by them;
- where a complaint of statutory nuisance is made from a someone living in the area, carry out a reasonable investigation; and
- where a statutory nuisance is found to exist, serve an abatement notice
Guidance to Accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 (opens new window) is available from the Scottish Government.
Because Statutory Nuisance could apply to such a wide range of situations, responses are prioritised on the type of nuisance concerned. Some minor matters may not be routinely investigated and investigations may only take place if levels of other higher priority work permit and the problem is serious and persistent.
Complaints relating to the conduct of statutory nuisance investigations should initially be made through the council's complaints process.
Private Actions using the Environmental Protection Act 1990
It is possible to take a private action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (opens new window) . The burden of proof is 'on the balance of probability', rather than the higher criminal standard of 'beyond reasonable doubt' which the local authority must meet. This is most useful where the local authority does not consider the matter to be a statutory nuisance or is unable to gather sufficient evidence that a statutory nuisance exists. (This could include where incidents are sporadic or unpredictable).
You may wish to consider taking legal advice before proceeding. If you wish to proceed you should contact the Sheriff Court at:
Sheriff Court House,
The Civic Centre,
Howden South Road,
Livingston, EH54 6FF
Tel: 01506 402400 or email
There may be a charge for making an application to the Sheriff.