What to do if you receive an odour abatement notice
If your business produces odour that extends beyond the boundary of your site then you have a duty to take appropriate steps to minimise odour.
However, if you have breached your odour management responsibilities then you may receive an odour abatement notice from your local council. In this article we explain what your odour responsibilities are and what to do if you are served with an odour abatement notice.
What are my odour responsibilities?
Odour abatement responsibilities are explained in our detailed guide to the Environment Agency’s H4 Odour Management but this article gives a briefer refresh of the rules.
Odour that extends beyond the boundary of your site and causes a nuisance is classed as pollution and, as a result, the Environment Agency has strict guidelines in place to ensure the quality of life of people in the surrounding area is not impacted.
Businesses that produce odour are required to obtain an environmental permit. As part of this process they are required to submit an Odour Management Plan (OMP), which outlines the steps a business is taking to mitigate the odour, including measures such as containment and treatment, as well actions it will take to reduce the impact on the community, such as engagement and complaint management.
If your business has been established for some time, it is likely you will already have an environmental permit that has been issued on the basis of your existing Odour Management Plan (OMP). However, factors such as a new housing development in your local area, or changes to your production processes can and do impact your odour permit.
What is an odour abatement notice?
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 local authorities are required to investigate complaints that could be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’.
The Act lists a number of matters which constitute statutory nuisances for the purposes of the guidelines, including (but not limited to):
- Noise from premises, vehicles, equipment or machinery in the street
- Smoke from premises
- Smells from industry, trade or business premises (e.g. sewage treatment works, factories or restaurants)
- Artificial light from premises
- Insect infestations from industrial, trade or business premises
- Accumulation or deposits on premises (e.g. piles of rotting rubbish)
In order for a matter to count as a statutory nuisance it must either “unreasonably and substantially” interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises, or “injure health or be likely to injure health”.
If a local authority agrees that the above conditions have been met it is required to serve an abatement notice on the people responsible for the statutory nuisance, or the owner of the premises.
The abatement notice will outline what the issue is and the steps you need to take to remedy the nuisance. In the case of odour, the notice will require you to stop or restrict the smell in line with the Environment Agency guidelines.
“Nuisance smells can be caused by problems with:
- Agricultural practices like spreading slurry or sludge onto land
- Sewage handling facilities (including sewage treatment works, sewage pumping stations, sludge treatment centres, and storm water storage tanks)
- Food processors and commercial kitchens (for example, if the extraction system is poor)
- Animals, livestock and poultry
- Slaughter houses, abattoirs and animal by-product rendering plants like pet food factories
- Paints and solvents from garages or workshops (for example, if vents are poorly positioned)
- Unplanned spills (for example, from vehicle accidents)
Smells can escape from buildings by:
- Emissions from a stack or extractor
- Leaks from the building structure (for example, around poorly sealed doors)”
Councils can consider a range of factors when assessing whether smells constitute a statutory nuisance, including where it is coming from, the character of the area (e.g. residential or commercial), the number of people affected, if the smell interferes with quality of life of nearby residents, how often the smell is noticed and the characteristics of the smell.
Because smells are often subjective, councils will usually employ at least two human ‘sniffers’ to assess the odour, and they may also ask residents to record their perceptions of the smell in the form of a ‘smell diary’.
If you are served with an odour abatement notice you may have grounds to appeal to a magistrates court within 21 days of receiving the notice.
Grounds for appeal include demonstrating legal tests haven’t been met to class the issue as a statutory nuisance, if the notice has been served on the wrong individual, or if the notice is defective.
In some instances you may be able to appeal if you can demonstrate you have taken the best practicable steps to stop or reduce the odour as part of your existing OMP and environmental permit.
Getting support with odour control
Consulting experts in odour control is the best way to ensure you respond to your abatement notice requirements. At FEG we have decades of experience supporting businesses in meeting their odour abatement obligations, offering a full cradle-to-grave service, with reassurance that we won’t stop until your problem is solved.
One size does not fit all when it comes to odour control. This is because odours involve a mix of sticky particulates, various compounds, temperature, and variable processes. Every situation is different so we take a bespoke approach to our projects to ensure we find the most efficient and cost-effective solution for your business.
Solving your odour issue might include:
- Odour monitoring
- Airflow dynamics and calculations
- Sniff testing
- Design and install of air scrubbing systems, including chemical, gas, and wet scrubbers
- System commissioning
- Training and operational support
You can read more about how odour control works in our Guide to Industrial Odour Control.
This seafood manufacturer needed a system that solved the issue of residential complaints due to acridity from the high temperatures and oil mists caused by the production process.
Our team are experts in odour control solutions. Get in touch to discuss your project and find out how we can help.