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Problems in your local environment

Abandoned vehicles

Abandoning a vehicle is a criminal offence. You can be fined and/or imprisoned for abandoning a vehicle.

A local authority must, by law, remove a vehicle which is abandoned on a highway, or on any other open land in their area. However, this does not apply to vehicles abandoned on private land where the costs of moving the vehicle to the nearest highway would be exceptionally high.

To report an abandoned vehicle, you should contact the environmental health department at your local authority. It is possible the vehicle may have been involved in crime, and the local authority will liaise with the local Police.In England, you can report an abandoned vehicle on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

The local authority must give 24 hours (seven days in Wales) notice of removal for any vehicle which is in such a poor condition that it will need to be destroyed. The notice must be attached to the vehicle.

If the local authority or police thinks a vehicle has some value, they must attempt to trace the last registered keeper, and send them a written notice seven days (21 days in Wales) before removal.

The Police also have powers to remove a vehicle which appears to have been abandoned. If the vehicle is likely to be a danger to the public, the local authority can ask the police to remove the vehicle straight away.

A local authority may recover costs from the person who has abandoned the vehicle for removal, storage and disposal charges. It is not allowed to charge a private landowner for the costs of removing an abandoned vehicle from their land (unless the vehicle belongs to the landowner).

Air pollution

The effects of air pollution can include smoke, smells, and chemical emissions. Air pollution may affect your health or damage your property, for example, smoke may affect paintwork. The effects of the pollution may be delayed, and only become clear some time after the pollution occurs. Air pollution may be created either by an industrial chemical process, or a private individual, for example, by lighting a bonfire, or burning waste plastic or car tyres.

If you want to complain about air pollution created by, for example, a neighbour, you should first try and resolve the problem by speaking to your neighbour. If this does not work, you can complain to the environmental health department of your local authority. Your local authority will also deal with complaints about smaller industrial processes, for example, an incinerator or a foundry. If you want to complain about pollution from a larger industrial process, for example, a power station or oil refinery, you should contact in England the Environment Agency, or in Wales Natural Resources Wales – see under heading Further help.

Dog nuisance

Dog mess

Your local authority must clear up dog mess from streets, roads and parks, except where there is heath or woodland, or where there are grazing animals.

A local authority can also force owners to clear up after their dogs in particular areas, for example parks, streets and beaches. They can do this in a number of different ways, which include:

  • making a local law
  • applying a public spaces protection order to a particular piece of land (previously known as dog control orders). Your local authority should put up signs if an order is in force.

If your dog fouls one of these areas, you must remove the mess unless you have a reasonable excuse not to. If you don't, you could receive a fixed penalty notice.

If you get a fixed penalty notice, you must pay the penalty by the date on the notice. If you disagree with the penalty, you can go to court and argue your case. But if you do nothing, further legal action may be taken against you.

If you get a fixed penalty notice that you disagree with and want to argue against, you can get help from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Dog control

Dogs can be dangerous when they get out of control. If you are worried about a dangerous dog, you should contact the police. If there is an area where dogs are often a nuisance, you can tell your local authority. They can make local laws or a public spaces protection order (previously known as a a dog control order), to make owners keep dogs on leads in particular areas or to ban dogs from places like children's playgrounds.

You can get further information on controlling a dog in public from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

Flooding

If you think that your property is in an area which is prone to flooding, you should contact the Environment Agency's special helpline, called Floodline. You can call Floodline to:

  • get general information and advice, in English or Welsh
  • get recorded information about the latest flooding information in any part of England or Wales
  • register for Floodline Warnings Direct. This is a free service that provides flood warnings by telephone, email and text message
  • report a flooding incident in an emergency
  • request a free Flood Warning Information Pack, including a set of Floodline factsheets in several languages.

Floodline cannot provide detailed information about weather or travelling conditions. You can contact Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or 0845 988 1188. You can also check flood warning information online at www.gov.uk.

You can also contact your local authority to check that sufficient defences against flooding are provided in your area. In some areas, the Environment Agency, or Natural Resources Wales (see under heading Further help) may argue that it is too expensive to carry out the work necessary to protect your property.

If sufficient defences are not provided, or the Environment Agency, or Natural Resources Wales claims they would be too expensive, you can complain, using the Environment Agency’s complaints procedure. You can find information about the complaints procedure in the ‘Contact us’ section of the Environment Agency, or Natural Resources Wales websites - see under heading Further help for the website address.

If your property and possessions are damaged as a result of flooding, or you incur extra expenses, you should make a claim on your insurance. You may also be able to get help from the Social Fund or from a welfare assistance scheme.

For information about how to claim on your insurance as a result of flooding to your property, see Making a claim on your insurance policy. For more information about help from the Social fund or from a welfare assistance scheme, see Help for people on a low income - the Social Fund and other welfare schemes.

If you are made homeless because of flooding to your property and you are a tenant, you should ask your landlord if they can provide you with alternative accommodation until you can move back into your own home. If this is not possible, or if you are a homeowner, you may be able to make an application to your local authority housing department as a homeless person.

For more information about making a homeless application to your local authority, see Finding accommodation.

Read more about how to deal with flooding in a rented home.

Litter

It is an offence to drop litter. If you do, you may receive a fixed penalty notice. If you get a fixed penalty notice, you must pay the penalty by the date on the notice. If you disagree with the penalty, you can go to court and argue your case. But if you do nothing, further legal action may be taken against you.

If you get a fixed penalty notice that you disagree with and want to argue against, you can get help from an experienced adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Your local authority should make sure that streets, parks and open spaces are kept clean. Local authorities and other public bodies such as government departments and transport operators must also keep their own public land clear of litter and refuse.

If you want to report litter on land owned by a public body, you should contact the organisation concerned. If no action is taken, you can approach the local authority environmental health department.

Additionally, your local authority can take measures to force individuals and organisations to control litter on their land. It can do this by, for example:

  • issuing a fixed penalty notice to a person who drops litter
  • issuing a community protection notice requiring a person, business or organisation to take certain steps as regards litter.

Mobile phone masts

If you want to complain about the siting of a planned mobile phone mast in your area, you can object to the planning department of your local authority. You may also want to contact the mobile phone company direct.

In England, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (see under heading Further help) can provide information and advice about challenging planning applications for mobile phone masts. This information may also be useful in Wales.

If you are concerned about the possibility of a health risk resulting from a mobile phone mast, you can contact the Health Protection Agency (see under heading Further help) for information.

Noise

If you are suffering from noise nuisance, for example from a neighbour, construction site or local business, this may be treated as a criminal offence. You should first try to resolve the problem by speaking to your neighbour or the people concerned. If this does not work, you can complain to the environmental health department of your local authority, which must investigate the complaint.

If your local authority accepts the complaint is justified, it can serve an abatement notice, which will order that the noise nuisance is stopped and not repeated. Someone served with an abatement notice can appeal. If they do not appeal, or the court upholds the notice, they must comply with the notice. If they do not comply, they may be committing a criminal offence.

All local authorities have the power to deal with noise nuisance from vehicle alarms. They have the power to break into the vehicle and silence the alarm if it is creating a nuisance.

The local authority also has the power to deal immediately with noise coming from licensed premises at night (between 11pm and 7am). First of all, it will formally warn the person responsible for the noise and then if they don't stop within the time set out in the warning (usually ten minutes), the local authority can impose a fixed penalty fine on them or prosecute them. The local authority can also seize the equipment making the noise.

Pest control

You are responsible for dealing with any pests you find on your own property. Pests include mice, rats, pigeons, cockroaches, fleas, lice and bed bugs. Your local authority may provide a pest control service, but they may charge for it. If you are a tenant, you should report pests to your landlord.

If you suspect there are pests in a neighbouring property, you should first approach the owner. If your neighbour refuses to clear up a problem of infestation by pests, you can complain to your local authority. The local authority can inspect the property and clear it up themselves, and they can charge the owner for this.

If you think that there are pests coming from an industrial plant or business, for example a rubbish tip or sewage works, you can complain to your local authority. The local authority can take action to deal with the problem.

Your local authority must keep such pests under control on their own land and property. If you are concerned about pests, you should contact the environmental health department of your local authority, which should take steps to resolve the problem.

Raves

Someone who wants to hold an outdoor event must apply for an entertainment licence. If a licence is not granted, and the event takes place, they might be guilty of participating in a rave. Legally, a rave is defined as a gathering of 20 or more people who are playing amplified music which is likely to lead to a disturbance.

The police can take action to stop, or prevent, a rave from taking place.

Streets and pavements

If you have a complaint about the condition of a street or pavement, you should contact the highways department of your local authority. You should tell your local authority if you believe that defective or icy pavements or roads may cause an accident. If you have suffered a personal injury because of the condition of a street or pavement, for example, you have tripped on a paving stone, or slipped or skidded on an untreated icy street or pavement, you may be able to claim compensation.

For more information about how to claim compensation for personal injury, see Personal injuries.

For more information about how to claim compensation for damage to your vehicle, see Traffic accidents.

You should also complain to your local authority about problems resulting from street works by utility companies (for example, gas, water, electricity) or cable companies. You should ask your local authority to help if:

  • they make it hard to get to your property – but try to take it up first with the company responsible for the works
  • you are worried about noise nuisance or air pollution
  • the works are dangerous, either when they are in progress, or when they have been finished
  • a road or path is not put back to its original condition.

The highways department is also usually responsible for the maintenance of street furniture, for example, traffic lights, street lamps, crossing controls and litter bins. However, in some cases, another organisation may be responsible, for example, a bus stop or bus shelter may be the responsibility of a private company, or a particular street lamp may be the responsibility of the parish council. The highways department should be able to tell you which organisation is responsible.

Traffic management and parking

The highways department of your local authority department is responsible for the management of traffic and parking. Its powers include:-

  • setting speed limits
  • imposing traffic calming measures, for example, road humps, islands, chicanes and rumble strips
  • establishing permanent or temporary parking restrictions.

Before they bring in new traffic management or parking controls, your local authority must publish details of their proposals in the local papers. They may also put up notices in the streets concerned. You have a right to comment on these proposals or object to them. If you believe there should be new traffic or parking controls in a particular street, you can ask your local authority to consider bringing them in.

Nuisance parking

It is against the law to park two or more vehicles in the street in order to sell them. It is also against the law to repair or service a vehicle in the street. This law applies mainly to businesses operating for profit who are causing a nuisance. It does not apply to private individuals who are selling their cars or carrying out minor repairs by the roadside. However, in exceptional circumstances, it could be applied to private individuals if their vehicles are causing a nuisance.

If you are concerned about vehicles parked on the street to be be sold, serviced or repaired, you should report the nuisance to the environmental health department of your local authority.

Waste disposal

The collection and recycling of most types of waste are the responsibility of your local authority. This will be the case even if the authority has contracted its waste collection services out to a private contractor. An authority may charge for the collection of large items.

Your local authority must have rules about what it wants you to do with household waste for collection. It must tell you what these rules are.

The rules should include:

  • what kind of bin or other container you should put your waste in - for example, should it be in a dustbin or a wheelie bin
  • where to put your bin to make it easy for your waste to be emptied
  • what kind of waste you can put in your bin. For example, whether you can put recyclable waste in your bin or not.

If you break any of the rules your local authority has about household waste, you could be fined.

If you are unhappy about the way your local authority collects or disposes of waste, you should use the internal complaints procedure. If you are not happy with the outcome, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.

For more information about how to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman, in England, see How to use an ombudsman in England or in Wales, see How to use an ombudsman in Wales.

Disposal of electrical appliances

If you are buying a new electrical appliance, the shop that sold it to you must offer you a free disposal service for your old item. This includes all large and small household appliances, fridges and freezers, IT equipment and many other electrical goods such as tools and sports equipment.

Shops must offer you at least one of three options for getting rid of your old appliance. These are:

  • to take your old item back to the shop
  • direct you to a special local collection site where you can get rid of your old item for free
  • to have your old item collected when your new appliance is delivered.

Shops only have to offer you one of these options. They don't have to offer you free collection from your home or to let you return your appliance to the shop.

Fridge and freezer disposal

If you need to dispose of an old fridge or freezer and are not buying a new one, you should make sure that it is done safely to prevent accidents or harm to the environment. The refuse department of your local authority must provide a collection service for bulky items, but they can charge you a fee for this. Alternatively, you can take your appliance to your local civic amenity site for disposal free-of-charge. They will ensure that your old appliance is disposed of safely.

You can get more information about the disposal of fridges and freezers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), or the Welsh Government – see under heading Further help for website addresses.

Further help

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Initial contact with DEFRA should always be made through the DEFRA Helpline. The contact details for the Helpline are:-

Customer Contact Unit
7th Floor
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR

Helpline: 0345 933 5577
E-Mail: defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.gov.uk

Department for Communities and Local Government

In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is responsible for planning policy. In Wales, the Welsh Government is responsible for planning (see below). Initial contact with the DCLG should be made through its Enquiry Service. The contact details are:

Enquiry Service
Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London
SW1E 5DU

Tel: 0303 444 0000
Website: www.communities.gov.uk

Welsh Government

In Wales, the Department for Environment, Sustainability and Housing at the Welsh Government is responsible for most government policy in relation to the environment. The contact details are:-

Welsh Government
Cathays Park
Cardiff
CF10 3NQ

Tel: 0845 010 3300 (English) or 0845 010 4400 (Welsh)
Website:http://new.wales.gov.uk/?lang=en

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency is the main government agency in England  responsible for protecting and improving the environment. It does this by, for example, regulating industry, maintaining flood defences and water resources, and improving wildlife habitats. The Environment Agency operates through a number of regional offices, which can be contacted through its headquarters. The headquarters contact details are:-

Environment Agency
National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
Rotherham
S60 1BY

Tel: 0370 850 6506 (General Enquiry Line)
0370 242 2549 (General enquiries minicom)
0800 807060 (Emergency Hotline)
0345 988 1188 or 0845 988 1188 (Floodline) (24 hour service)
0845 602 6340 (Floodline Type talk)
E-Mail: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk
Website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency

Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales aim is to ensure that the natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained, enhanced and used, now and in the future. It is the regulatory authority in Wales for a wide range of environmental legislation.

Natural Resources Wales
Ty Cambria
29 Newport Road
Cardiff
CF 24 0TP

Tel: 0300 065 300
Website: www.naturalresourceswales.gov.uk
General enquiries: 0300 065 3000 (Mon-Fri, 8am - 6pm)
Minicom service: For the hard of hearing, a minicom service is available on 03702 422 549**
Incident hotline: 0800 807060 (Freephone, 24 hour service) - you should use the incident hotline to report an incident such as pollution
Floodline: 0345 988 1188 or 0845 988 1188 (24 hour service) or Type talk 0845 602 6340

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for a variety of health and safety issues, including dealing with some environmental issues. The contact details are:-

Health and Safety Executive
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge
London
SE1 9HS

Tel: 0845 300 9923 (Incidents line)
0870 154 5500 (General information)
Fax: 029 2085 9260
E-Mail: hseinformationservices@natbrit.com
Website: www.hse.gov.uk

The Health Protection Agency

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) provides information and advice to the government, and to members of the public, relating to protection from radiation hazards, including mobile phone masts. Contact details are:-

Health Protection Agency
Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards
Chilton
Didcot
Oxfordshire
OX11 0RQ

Tel: 01235 831600
Fax: 01235 833891
E-Mail: rpd@hpa.org.uk
Website: www.hpa.org.uk/radiation

Keep Britain Tidy

Keep Britain Tidy can provide information and advice about litter and improving and maintaining the local environment. It also runs the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. The contact details are:-

Keep Britain Tidy
Elizabeth House
The Pier
Wigan
WN3 4EX

Tel: 01942 612621
Fax: 01942 824778
E-Mail: enquiries@keepbritaintidy.org
Website: www.keepbritaintidy.org.

Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth campaigns on environmental issues. It publishes information for supporters of the campaigns it works on. It also has a free legal advice line for environmental issues. Contact details are:

Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood Street
London
N1 7JQ

Legal advice line: 0808 801 0405
Tel: 020 7490 1555 (main switchboard)
E-mail: legal@foe.co.uk
Website: www.foe.co.uk

Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), and Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW)

The CPRE and CPRW campaign for the preservation of the countryside. They also produce useful factsheets and other information documents on a range of rural issues. Contact details are:-

Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)
128 Southwark Street
London
SE1 0SW

Tel: 020 7981 2800
Fax: 020 7981 2899
E-Mail: info@cpre.org.uk
Website: www.cpre.org.uk

Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW)
Ty Gwyn
31 High Street
Welshpool
Powys
SY21 7YD

Tel: 01938 552525 or 01938 556212
Fax: 01938 552741
E-Mail: info@cprwmail.org.uk
Website: www.cprw.org.uk

Fix my Street

FixMyStreet is a useful website where people can report local problems, for example, abandoned vehicles, unlit lampposts, graffiti, fly tipping, street lighting and broken paving slabs. You can enter details of the problem on a map and it is reported to the local council on your behalf. Go to www.fixmystreet.com

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