Odour Nuisance

A statutory odour nuisance is something that is so offensive and prolonged that it significantly interferes with the enjoyment and use of the affected property.  It only applies to odour from trade or business premises.

Many things can affect whether we would consider an odour to be a statutory nuisance.

  • The time of day the odour occurs.
  • How long the odour is a problem.
  • The type of smell and its effects.
  • Together with the character of the area. 

Depending upon the type of odour, judging whether odour is a Statutory Nuisance can take time, especially if it is difficult to predict when the odour will occur and if it only lasts for a short period.

Odour problems we can investigate


The types of odour problems we can investigate are:

  • Accumulations of waste that produce odour.
  • Odour arising from the way someone keeps animals.
  • Odour from industrial, trade, or business premises, including premises such as restaurants and takeaways.

If the source is a commercial premises, such as a restaurant, we cannot enforce any changes if the business has already adopted best practicable methods to reduce the odour.

Please note that the Council cannot intervene in matters related to domestic odours such as cigarette smoke and domestic cooking.

Agricultural Odours


During the spring and in summer after harvesting, Environmental Protection frequently receive complaints about agricultural odours in the district. Generally, the most common source of odour complaints relate to the storing and spreading of bio-solids (sewage sludge), animal manures and slurries (muck spreading). Prevailing winds can carry these odours some distance across fields and into residential areas. Muck spreading is recognised as standard agricultural practice, and as Dover and the nearby villages and towns are surrounded by a great deal of working farmland, such odour must be expected from time to time.muck-spreading

The spreading of pre-treated sewage sludge and the incorporation of manure into agricultural land is a perfectly lawful activity and considered the Best Practicable Environmental Option for disposal of such wastes.

It is not always possible to advise as to the expected duration or anticipated intensity of odours, as this can be dependent upon weather conditions.


Why do farmers have to spread in summer?

A frequently asked question is "Why do farmers have to spread in the summer months. Why not in winter when people are less likely to have windows open or be relaxing in their gardens?" Spreading can only be undertaken in fair weather. Working the soil in wet, cold or frozen ground is often unfeasible. The growing season dictates that most crops are harvested in summer and the incorporation of manures follows almost immediately. This is to replenish the soil ready for the following year.

Why is it that sometimes the smells from spreading are so awful?

Many of the complaints we receive about odour from spreading relate to the spreading of chicken manure (also called chicken litter). This is the material arising from intensive poultry farming where thousands of birds are keep in large sheds.

The smell could be reduced if the chicken manure was pre-treated prior to spreading (e.g. by aerobic composting) but this is rarely done in this country because of the costs involved.

Some odours arise from the spreading of sewage sludge. The practice of stockpiling and then spreading of treated sewage sludge is controlled by the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989. This is regulated by the Environment Agency and overseen by Water UK and Ofwat. Sewage sludge is produced from the treatment of waste and consists of two basis forms, raw primary sludge (basically faecal material)  and secondary activated sludge (a living culture of organisms that help remove contaminants from wastewater before it is returned to rivers or the sea). The raw primary sludge is transformed into biosolids using a number of complex treatments  such as digestion, lime stabilisation, thickening, dewatering and drying.

Lime stabilisation is a a popular method of treating sludge and producing an alkali fertiliser for use in farming.  The lime reacts with water in the sludge and produces heat.  The increased temperature and pH kill pathogens. 

What can the Council do about smells from spreading?

We will liaise with farmers to ensure they follow the Code of Good Agricultural Practice with a view to keeping disturbance to a minimum. If the farmer is acting unreasonably we shall look at enforcement action to minimise future problems.

We have worked with other local authorities to produce a Code of Practice for the Agricultural Use of Poultry Manure.

The National Farmers Union webpage also give guidance on odour control. 

Commercial Kitchen Extraction Systems


Although it is not possible to completely remove all odours, planning conditions generally prevent odour nuisances occurring from commercial kitchens.

If you feel that odour from a commercial kitchen, such as a restaurant, or pub, is having an unreasonable effect on the enjoyment of your property, please contact the Environmental Protection Team for advice. We will assess whether the offending kitchen is operating 'best practicable means'. For example, the extraction system being suitable for cooking the types of food and quantity of food. If the premises is already operating 'best practicable means', we have little remit to enforce change.

DEFRA has withdrawn 'Guidance on the control of odour and noise from commercial kitchen exhaust' on GOV.UK, but it contains some useful information and outlines what you need to submit to the planning department when applying to change the extraction system in a commercial kitchen.

Industrial, Trade and Business Activities


We regulate certain types of businesses to keep any air pollution (including odour) that they may cause to a minimum.

Under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010, certain businesses must get a permit from us. This permit will set out conditions they must keep to, including ways to prevent odours produced by their activities from causing a nuisance.

If we cannot solve the problem by enforcing the conditions of the permit, we may take action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The Environment Agency issue and enforce permits for larger industrial activities and we may refer your complaint to them.

Telephone the Environment Agency, on their 24 hour incident hotline0800 80 70 60.



Make a Report or Enquiry


Should you wish to make a report, complaint or have an enquiry relating to odour nuisance please use the reporting form on the following link: