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Investigative duties

This content applies to England & Wales

Information about local authority duties to inspect the area for statutory nuisance and to investigate complaints.

Part 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990) imposes a duty on every local authority to inspect its area for statutory nuisances and to take reasonable steps to investigate any complaints of statutory nuisance that it receives.[1] The task of detecting statutory nuisances is usually delegated to Environmental Health Officers,[2] who are often made aware of statutory nuisances by complaints from residents.

In these circumstances, the local authority has rights of entry to inspect the property. If necessary, the local authority can obtain warrants to force entry, and it is a criminal offence for anyone to prevent access.[3]

Where a local authority is satisfied of the existence of a statutory nuisance or the likelihood of a statutory nuisance arising or recurring, it then becomes legally bound to take action.[4] Although obliged to follow the statutory procedures to tackle statutory nuisances, some authorities will first serve an informal notice that action will be enforced using the EPA 1990 if works are not carried out to abate the nuisance within a reasonable time.

Advisers should note that evidence from an Environmental Health Officer will not be conclusive evidence of statutory nuisance. It is only one of the factors that the court will take into account when assessing whether nuisance exists.[5]

[1] s.79(1) Environmental Protection Act 1990.

[2] s.101 Local Government Act 1972.

[3] Sch 3, para 2 Environmental Protection Act 1990.

[4] Cocker v Cardwell [1869] LR 5 QB 15.

[5] R (on the application of Hackney LBC) v Rottenberg [2007] EWHC 166 (Admin).

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