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Light Pollution

Artificial light is an important part of modern life. The increased use of lighting, however, can cause problems. Light in the wrong place, of the wrong type or at the wrong time can be intrusive.

Artificial Light, Light Pollution and the Law

Artificial light is an important part of modern life. It has many uses including:

  • illumination of streets, roads and hazardous areas;
  • for security lighting;
  • to increase the hours when outdoor sports and recreation facilities can be used;
  • to enhance the appearance of buildings at night.

The increased use of lighting, however, can cause problems. Light in the wrong place at the wrong time can be intrusive. There has been an increase in complaints about lighting to local authorities in recent years.

What is Light pollution?

Light pollution is probably best described as artificial light that is allowed to illuminate, or intrude upon, areas not intended to be lit. The council does not have specific powers to deal with general light pollution, but has legal powers to tackle certain specific problems.

What sources of potential light nuisance are covered under Statutory Nuisance Law?

Artificial light from sources such as street lighting, domestic and commercial security lighting, advertising lighting, car parks, sports stadia, domestic decorative lighting, exterior lighting of buildings, laser shows, sky beams and even temporary works such as road works are included where the light is causing nuisance.

Excluded are:

  • Direct or reflected sunlight or moonlight
  • Lighthouses
  • Crown estates
  • Armed Forces / Crown property

What can you do if you have a problem with light nuisance?

First, approach the owner of the lighting. Often the remedy is quite simple. A minor adjustment may be all that is required, or maybe an agreement about when lights should be turned on or off.

If the owner of the lighting is unwilling to remedy the situation to your satisfaction, you have two options:

  • Consider taking a private legal action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. See Statutory Nuisance law for more information, or
  • Contact us. We will investigate your complaint, where resources permit. If we agree that the light is a statutory nuisance we will contact the person responsible for the lighting. This will be informal at first, but an abatement notice may served if necessary.

Determining if your complaint is a Statutory Nuisance

When an officer investigates complaints about light pollution, they will need to determine whether the light pollution is a "statutory nuisance". This will normally be done through evening site visits and may involve use of an illuminance meter. The officer will assess and make a decision based on;

  • What type of area it is
  • How bright the source is
  • How intrusive the light is
  • How much light is shining upwards
  • Glare

More generally, the officer will take into account the impact, locality, the time, frequency, duration, convention (what is normal), importance and avoidability of the light source. However, if the light can be effectively blocked by closing blinds or curtains, it is unlikely to be deemed a statutory nuisance. This is in line with the relevant Scottish Government  Guidance to Accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 (opens new window). For more information on statutory nuisance, see our Statutory Nuisance law web page.

Mitigation Measures

If it is decided that there is a problem with light pollution, there are a number of mitigation measures that will be suggested:

  • Switching the light source off
  • Hours of the light source limited
  • Better aiming of the light source
  • Replacing the fitting(s) with lower power items or which control the direction better
  • Fitting of shields or baffles
  • Design and planting of landscape screening or fencing

Development Control

Some developments require planning permission. If you have concerns over the potential lighting impact of a development, you should contact Development Management