We often receive complaints regarding overgrown, unkempt and untidy gardens. The garden or land can become unsightly or attract other environmental crimes, such as fly-tipping.
Your rights when it comes to neighbours' gardens are governed by a number of laws. Unfortunately however, the simple fact that your next door neighbour's garden is unkempt and a bit overgrown is insufficient to enable you to take action unless it's contravening the law.
Overgrown and untidy gardens and land
There are strict laws on what you can and cannot do when it comes to taking action yourself. For example, you cannot trespass onto the gardens of neighbours to remove any rubbish or foliage yourself.
If a neighbour's hedge, brambles or tree are causing problems on your side of the boundary, you are entitled to prune or remove anything that comes over onto your side of the boundary. Often we are asked can the cut vegetation be thrown back into the garden where it came from. Legally, you can pass it back to the overgrown side but this can cause relations with neighbours to deteriorate. We recommend you discuss it with your neighbour first to avoid causing upset between neighbours.
Where vegetation from the neighbouring garden is pushing your fence over, you should first speak to your neighbour to find a solution. If your neighbour won't cooperate, you may have to take your own civil action. This is not something the council can get involved with.
When it comes to trees, some trees have a tree preservation order placed upon them and you can be fined if you remove anything other than dead wood.
If the property in question is a housing association property, you could contact the Social Landlord and they should ask the tenant to keep the property tidy in line with their tenancy agreement.
Pests and Rats
The council can normally only deal with accumulations of waste and rubbish that are attracting rats and other pests. An Environmental Health Officer will need to visit the property to look for evidence that pests are coming from the land and affecting neighbouring properties. The type of rubbish and waste will also need to provide a habitat that would support pests.
Dumped household items and dilapidated vehicles in gardens
Where unwanted household items, unused or dilapidated vehicles are left in gardens or on driveways for long periods of time, depending on the harm they are causing, the Council may be able to deal with them and other unsightly gardens through anti-social behaviour legislation.
New rules have been introduced to simplify the way septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants are regulated in England, protecting the environment and improving water quality.
If you have a septic tank or small sewage treatment plant you must comply with the 'general binding rules' by ensuring your system is maintained properly and does not cause pollution. Extra protection is in place in areas designated as environmentally sensitive, where people may need to apply for a permit if they install a new system.
The general binding rules are easy to follow. You can read them in full and find further information at Gov.uk - septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants
I've found asbestos on my property, what should I do?
- Asbestos is common place and not unusual to find it in homes and garages. If the suspected asbestos has not been disturbed or is not in a place where it can be easily damaged then it should be left alone.
- If it needs to be removed or is damaged etc. what should I do?
- Some asbestos needs to be removed by a licensed asbestos contractor (available through the Yellow Pages) whilst some asbestos does not.
- Further advice - see Health and Safety Executive website (see offsite links). Their website has useful advice about different types of asbestos and advice sheets detailing how different types of asbestos can be removed.
- If you are in any doubt as to whether something is or isn't asbestos, you can seek advice from a professional asbestos company.
- Environmental Health are not able to identify asbestos as this requires expert analysis.
How dangerous is asbestos?
- Different types of asbestos have different risks to health. If you want to remove asbestos, you should use an asbestos removal firm.
- Some asbestos cement can be removed by hand, using hand tools if it is in good condition and is not damaged or friable. You should wear protective gloves and mask, keep it damp while removing it. The amenity tip will take small amounts of asbestos if it is double bagged. You should ring them in advance to check they have space to take it.
- For asbestos sprayed coatings (likely to be more dangerous) you must use a proper contractor. If in doubt, advised to look in yellow pages for licensed asbestos contractor (licensed with the HSE).
Where can I dispose of asbestos?
- Only a maximum of 200kg of Cement Bonded Asbestos is accepted at the Westhampnett Amenity Tip. This type of asbestos may be found in garage roofing sheets and down pipes etc.
- You should contact the site before attending to ensure there is sufficient space to accept the asbestos. If you have a large amount of asbestos to dispose of you will need to arrange for this to be disposed of through a private contractor, for which you may be charged.
- Fibrous Asbestos materials (pipe and boiler lagging, sprayed coatings, insulation boards, fire stopping materials etc.) are not accepted on WSCC sites.
How do I dispose of asbestos?
For health and safety reasons the asbestos material must be double wrapped or double bagged in:
- Transparent 1000 gauge polythene or
- 500 gauge temporary protective polythene sheeting (TMP) such as Visqueen, or a similar robust transparent material
- Once the asbestos has been double wrapped or double bagged in one of the above, it must be sealed with tape. Bags and sheeting can be purchased from a builder's merchant or DIY store.
My Neighbours are removing asbestos
- There are different types of asbestos. Unless it is asbestos cement in tiles/roofing etc., a specialist contractor should be used. Asbestos cement can be removed by damping it down, only using hand tools and double bagging it.
- If you are concerned about asbestos being removed from a residential premises by a contractor you should complain to the Health and Safety Executive.
Environmental Health is not able to investigate complaints about cigarette smoke from your neighbours smoking in their garden. If you are able to smell cigarette smoke in your house, we understand that it may be irritating but it would not constitute a statutory nuisance and therefore we have no powers to deal with it.
The smoke will be so diluted that there is not a public health risk otherwise when the government introduced the Smokefree legislation they would have banned smoking in gardens. Most people would agree that it would be unreasonable to stop someone smoking in their garden.
You could ask the person to smoke further away from your property or when they have a smoke, you could close your windows if you find it irritating.
Burning on an Industrial or Trade Premises
If an industrial or trade premises is burning waste that is producing dark, thick, black or offensive smoke this would be an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993 and Environmental Health will investigate these complaints.
If it is not dark smoke but it is causing a nuisance, we will speak to the owner to see why they are burning and advise better means to dispose of the waste. We will ask you to keep a nuisance diary. Please see our nuisance section.
Most waste from business is classed as controlled waste and the owner has a duty to ensure it is properly disposed of. Normally this would not be by burning it however there are a couple of exemptions such as burning wood and plant material on a building site. In these cases, the Environment Agency require the builder to be registered with them. To burn without being registered is an offence. You can ring the EA to check whether a builder who is burning is registered to do so.
Burning stable waste
Dung heaps can create both smoke and a terrible stink when they are lit and left to burn for long periods. If you are experiencing a nuisance from the burning of stable waste, please use our report a bonfire form.
Name: Environment Agency - Chichester Office
Telephone: 08708 506506
Wood burning stoves
Information regarding the installation of a solid fuel burning appliance
Chichester does not have any declared smoke control areas. The installation of a solid fuel burning appliance is regulated by HETAS, the Government appointed body for installers and competency standards.
Heating equipment testing & approval scheme
Customers using a Heating Equipment Testing & Approval Scheme (HETAS) Registered Installer, in England and Wales, will be given a HETAS Certificate of Compliance (Building Regulation Compliance Certificate) by the installer on the completion of installation work, or through the post if the installer notifies the installation online. This is of vital importance in demonstrating that the installation was carried out by a competent installer working for a HETAS registered business and complies with the relevant Building Regulations. The information on the certificate is used to record your installation, and in England & Wales it is used to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department (LABC) of the work that was undertaken. This 'self certification' by competent Registered Installers takes the place of a Local Authority Building Notice which could cost you a significant amount of money, this can vary by region and the cost of the work being carried out. The HETAS installer is charged a small fee by HETAS for this service, but much less than the charges incurred if you seek a Building Notice via the Local Authority. The information can be required to validate household insurance and will be required by Solicitors in any home selling process.
Appropriate fuel to use
You should bear in mind that compliance with Building Regulations does not exempt you from other obligations not to cause a smoke or odour nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It is important that you ensure that the fuel you use is appropriate for the appliance - seasoned wood, that is kept dry. Also, that you receive and follow appropriate instruction on lighting the appliance and maintaining it in optimum working order in order to avoid excess smoke.
You should always be aware of the potential for nuisance to be caused to others, especially if you are close to taller buildings or where smoke is drawn downwards.
We have grown up in a generation where not many houses in the neighbourhood burn solid fuels so sometimes the smell of smoke or presence of ash particles can cause some people to get upset. Having a woodburner should probably be seen as an occasional supplementary source of heating and not the only means of heating a property unless the property has been more specifically designed with a biomass boiler.
When can I use fireworks?
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing fireworks, and anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks.
The use of fireworks at night between 11pm - 7am is prohibited in England and Wales, with extensions for the following festivals:
- Until 1.00am on the night of Chinese New Year
- Until 1.00am on the night of Diwali
- Until 1.00am on New Year's Eve
- Until midnight on 5 November
The Regulations are enforced by the police. There is a penalty of up to £5000 or 6 months in prison for breach of curfew.
Noise from fireworks
Fireworks can frighten people and animals. In particular children and the elderly can be intimidated and scared by firework noise. Farm animals have been scared to death literally, and startled animals have been injured, killed and caused accidents when bolting. Disturbing domestic pets can also be dangerous as panicked cats can be vicious and destructive.
Air pollution from fireworks
Fireworks produce a cocktail of chemicals. Fireworks emit light, heat and sound energy along with carbon dioxide and other gases and residues. The main component is gunpowder so get sulphur compounds small amounts of particulates, metal oxides and organic compounds (including minute amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans).
On and around Bonfire Night (November 5), there is often a noticeable increase in pollution from particulates and dioxins. Approximately 14% of UK dioxin emissions are produced around Bonfire Night - most of this coming from bonfires rather than fireworks. Current research indicates that deposits of pollutants from fireworks do not pose a risk to soil or water.
Avoid firework frights
If you have your own firework display, follow these simple guidelines:
- Give neighbours a few days notice of your display - important if elderly, have children or pets.
- Use appropriate fireworks - when buying fireworks, avoid really noisy ones.
- Make sure pets and other animals are safely away from fireworks.
- Consider timing. Friday or Saturday is preferable, and make sure they are over by 11pm.
- Avoid letting off fireworks in unsuitable weather - if it is still and misty or air quality is poor, pollution could be a problem
- Let off your fireworks in an open garden area - noise bounces off buildings and smoke and pollution can build up in enclosed spaces.
- If a neighbour complains that you are disturbing them, their pets or livestock, be considerate.
- After your display, clear up firework fallout and dispose of it safely.
There are 5 injurious weeds classified under the Weeds Act 1959:
- common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)
- spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
- creeping or field thistle (Cirsium arvense)
- broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius)
- curled dock (Rumex Crispus)
It is not an offence to have these weeds growing on your land and some species e.g. ragwort have conservation benefits. However they must not be allowed to spread to agricultural land, particularly grazing areas.
Enforcement notices can be issued following complaints requiring landowners to take action to prevent the spread of these weeds. Natural England handle the complaints procedure under the Weeds Act 1959.
Advice & leaflets - resolving problems
There are a range of advisory leaflets on these issues produced by Natural England and by Defra which can be downloaded (see offsite links).
If you require more detail it is recommended that you contact specialised private companies. The National Association of Agricultural Contractors have a list of approved contractors.
How to make a complaint under the Weeds Act 1959
Natural England handle the complaints procedure under the Weeds Act 1959. Complaints will only be taken forward once a fully completed form is received. Complaint form and guidance is available on the Natural England website.
Ragwort is a commonly occurring native species. It is a specified weed under the Weeds Act 1959. It contains toxins which can have debilitating or fatal consequences, if eaten by horses and other grazing animals.
In most instances the presence of Ragwort is not an issue and plants should be left alone, however in some cases they may have a detrimental or potentially harmful effect. Responsibility for assessing and dealing with the plant is that of the landowner but DEFRA and Natural England can help to deal with some cases.
Ragwort in horses fields
Ragwort is dangerous to livestock. Owners are responsible for the welfare of their animals, and they should ensure that livestock are not exposed to the risk of ragwort poisoning.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is an offence to keep an animal in such a way that suffering will be an inevitable consequence. Owners can be prosecuted for keeping animals on land where harmful weeds or plants are growing and there is a risk of ingestion.
Animal welfare violations and complaints are dealt with by the local authority or the RSPCA. (the police will only become involved in cases involving very serious offences or issues of public order).
Invasive Plants and Weeds
Weeds not covered by the Weeds Act 1959:
- Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam
Under Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it can be an offence to plant or grow the above however there is no statutory requirement for landowners/householders to remove these plants from their property once established naturally or control it if it is.
A pack containing further information on related legislation and advice on treatment for Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam is available from Natural England.
Whose responsibility is it to control invasive weeds?
- If the land is privately owned then the responsibility for the control of this weed rests with the landowner or tenant of the land. The Environment Agency or local government are not obliged to control this weed on behalf of other landowners. Disputes between neighbours regarding problems associated with this weed are a civil matter.
- Where specified weeds are growing on verges of large main roads (trunk roads) or motorways in the district, control and eradication is the responsibility of the Highways Agency.
I have an invasive plant coming onto my land from an adjoining property, what can I do?
The best solution is to cooperate with the neighbouring landowner and coordinate your control efforts, by sharing costs or labour, for instance. If you do not know who owns the adjoining land, or you are in dispute with your neighbour about control of the invasive plant, current legislation offers little support.
Private action can be taken under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 where invasive plants are causing a nuisance to private property.
The exception is hogweed, which can cause skin blisters and lead to permanent scaring. In this case, the council will investigate a complaint.
How do I control or eradicate invasive plants on my land?
Advice on chemical treatment can be obtained from the Wildlife Species Conservation Division of Defra (see offsite links) or further information is available on the Environment Agency website.
Disposal of invasive plants can cause a problem
Soil that is contaminated with invasive plants and their roots is likely to be classified as 'controlled waste' under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. If the area has been treated with herbicides, the soil may then be classed as hazardous waste and require correct disposal. Seek advice from the Environment Agency.
Invasive plants on railway, motorways, highway
Where invasive plants occur on the following land, contact details are;
- Railway land and embankments: Network Rail
- Motorways and trunk roads: Highways Agency
- All other roads Local Highways Authority
- Japanese Knotweed was introduced to the UK as an ornamental plant during the 1800s. Japanese Knotweed forms dense clumps up to three metres in height. It has large, oval green leaves and a stem that is hollow and similar to bamboo.
- Beneath any stand of Japanese Knotweed will exist an extensive underground root (rhizome) network that can extend several metres around and beneath depending on ground conditions. The plant spreads by its roots.
- More information can be found at DEFRA and Environment Agency websites.
Light pollution is probably best described as artificial light that is allowed to illuminate or pollute areas not intended to be lit.
There are three main types of light pollution (click the headings for further information):
Incorrectly set lighting can cause light pollution which creates light trespass. This is the intrusion of overbright or poorly directed lights onto neighbouring property which affects the occupiers right to enjoy their own property, e.g. a badly directed security light shining into a neighbour's bedroom window.
Incorrectly set lighting can also cause glare, where an overbright light source against a dark background can cause dark shadows reducing a persons ability to view the area.
Glare can conceal rather than reveal.
Skyglow is the broad orange glow seen over towns and roads that prevents appreciation of the night sky.
Light pollution has become a major problem during the last decade and the problem can clearly be seen when looking at the night sky. Poorly designed lighting such as street lights or outdoor sports facilities do not direct all the light onto the areas they are designed to illuminate, allowing light to escape into the sky.
The increase in the use of security lighting both in domestic and commercial premises in recent years has brought with it further problems, particularly with light trespass.
The Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment Act 2005 gives powers to the local authority to deal with light pollution under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in much the same way as noise is currently controlled.
Under this Act any artificial lighting identified as a statutory nuisance will be subject to restriction or abatement with fines for non-compliance being £5,000 for domestic premises and £20,000 for business premises.
So what can you do?
If you have security lighting:
- Make sure that it does not cause intrusive light onto neighbouring properties and adjust where necessary.
- Check the sensors are set correctly so that the light only comes on when triggered by a person (not animals).
- Make sure any security lights are angled downwards to prevent glare.
- If you are bothered by lighting affecting your property:
- Approach the owner and explain politely that you are being troubled by the lights.
If you do not get a favourable response, or you feel unable to approach the owner, contact us.
There are many sources of noise; traffic, rail, aircraft, neighbourhood noise. Environmental Health deals with noise that is causing a nuisance or having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the vicinity, noise impacts from planning applications such as noise from increased traffic or noise from plant and equipment, we are consulted on applications from licenced premises e.g. pubs/clubs for noise and music. Please see our Noise, nuisance and antisocial behaviour page.
Aircraft noise is not dealt with by Environmental Health. If you have a complaint, you should contact the Civil Aviation Authority. Please see the CAA website.
Animals/livestock noise (excluding dogs)
What are the laws if your neighbour keeps chickens and other livestock on domestic premises?
There are no laws prohibiting people from keeping chickens or other livestock on their property. However, if they are causing a nuisance in terms of noise or odour,or the way the animals are being kept is becoming anti-social, Environmental Health will investigate for you.
We would advise people who want to keep livestock in their gardens to consider how appropriate their garden is. If you live in the countryside it is less likely to cause a nuisance than in an urban area. You should consider how close the livestock will be to your neighbours. Most of the problems we investigate are where the person with the livestock moves it away from their property but closer to their neighbours. This can often led to poor neighbour relations.
If you have livestock you must keep the pens clean, clear away uneaten feed so that you don't encourage pests and rodents.
Anti-Social Behaviour and Noise
Anti-social behaviour and nuisances include: litter, dog fouling, neighbour noise and other behaviour which negatively affect a community's quality of life, is deemed to be unreasonable and persistent. In these circumstances, Officers may be able to target those responsible by serving a warning letter which identifies the problem behaviour and requests them to stop. It also highlights the consequences if they continue.
Where the behaviour continues, the officer can serve a Community Protection Notice which includes a requirement to stop doing something, to start doing something or to take reasonable steps to avoid further anti-social behaviour.
Failure to comply with a Community Protection Notice is a criminal office. If appropriate a Fixed Penalty Notice can be issued or a fine of up to £20,000 for businesses and £2500 for individuals.
When deciding whether the behaviour is having a detrimental effect, officers will consult with the victims and or potential victims to better understand the effect the behaviour is having.
Please see our Report a noisy dog page.
Farmers are supposed to follow suggestions from the National Farmers Union guidelines to help prevent problems.
- Using a number of different types of scarers.
- Avoid scarers that work by noise early in the morning.
- Only use audible bird scarers as a last resort.
- Never using noisy scarers near buildings where people sleep or where quiet is important.
- Avoid using scarers within at least 200m of sensitive buildings before 7:00am, or before 6:00am elsewhere.
- The effectiveness of a scarer can be prolonged by moving it often.
- Bird scarers should not fire more than four times in any one hour. (All the reports from a multiple chamber gun count as one report if heard within 30 seconds).
- Baffles should be used (of straw bales, for example) to concentrate the sound onto the field and away from neighbours where a statutory noise nuisance could be caused
Environmental Health will take complaints about bird scarers. If you can provide the name of the farmer we will be able to deal with your complaint more quickly. Please can you make local enquiries before making a complaint.
Construction site noise
In residential areas, noisy works from demolition and construction shall be carried out during normal working hours. There are normally considered to be:
- 08.00 to 18.00 hours Monday to Friday;
- 08.00 to 13.00 hours on Saturdays; and
- no working on Sundays or Bank Holidays
However, in the summer, when people are up and about earlier, construction noise might start earlier and finish earlier.
In commercial or industrial areas there is more flexibility to noise. Where works are likely to affect businesses, it may be advantageous for works to be carried out outside normal working hours. In these circumstances, we would discuss it with those affected and the businesses concerned.
In areas of mixed residential and commercial areas there will be a need to compromise between the needs of business and residential occupiers.
Environmental Health Officers will discuss the following with construction sites operators;
- Scheduling noisy works to more acceptable times of day.
- Use environmentally acceptable plant and equipment, properly maintained and silenced.
- Use of the least intrusive method of work.
- Proper instruction and supervision of staff.
- 'Rest periods' during which operations are temporarily ceased.
- Acoustic screening
Extreme circumstances may offer temporary re-housing to residents likely to be exposed to unacceptable disturbance for prolonged periods.
Planning and Noise
Comments are made on planning applications for development that has potential to cause loss of amenity or nuisance by way of noise (also odour, dust etc). Likewise, proposed noise sensitive development ( schools etc) may need protection from existing noise sources. It is routine to request conditions to be attached to certain types of application and also to give informal advice on how to comply with relevant legislation. The Planning Noise Advice Document, will assist all parties in coming to a common understanding of what is required.
The Planning Noise Advice Document provides Sussex-wide guidance on how to address noise issues in planning applications. The guidance has been produced by the CIEH Sussex Pollution Working Group.
The purpose of this document is to provide clear and consistent guidance to developers, their consultants and planners on:
- The information that will be required to be submitted with relevant planning applications, ideally as part of the validation process
- The existing noise standards to be considered in planning decisions
The guidance complements the Noise Policy Statement for England (2010) and the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) and will be kept under review and updated as and when necessary.
Helicopters and aircraft
Helicopters are not dealt with by Environmental Health. If you have a complaint, you should contact the Civil Aviation Authority
- House alarms should be fitted with a device that silences it after 20 minutes if it has misfired.
- If it has not stopped after 20 minutes, Environmental Health may be able to take action to silence it.
- To be a statutory nuisance, it has to be affecting your enjoyment of your property, e.g., you can't sleep.
- The procedure for silencing an alarm can take 4-5 hours or even longer in some circumstances.
We will need to know:
- Whether the alarm is sounding continually or intermittently
- Is the alarm internal or external?
- How long has it been ringing?
- Is there an alarm company name on the alarm?
- Do you know who may be a key holder?
We will try to contact the key holder to silence the alarm. Where it is not possible to contact the key holder we may serve a notice and silence the alarms ourselves at the owners expense.
If you have an alarm, have it monitored by an alarm key holding company, list key holder information with alarm company, register with Sussex Police "Peace for a Pound".
MOD aircraft and helicopters
If you want to complain about military low flying aircraft you should contact the Ministry of Defence
For information about Radon, please visit UKradon.