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Problems in your local environment

Abandoned vehicles

Abandoning a vehicle is a criminal offence. You can be fined up to £5000 if convicted, and imprisoned if convicted for a second time. Your council may issue a fixed penalty notice of £200 instead of prosecution in the courts.

A local council must, by law, remove a vehicle which is abandoned on a highway, or on any other open land in the council 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 Crimestoppers or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s Environmental Crime Unit. Information about how to report waste crime can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

The local council must give seven days notice of removal for a vehicle from premises. An abandoned vehicle that is in such poor condition that it will need to be destroyed can be removed immediately.

If the vehicle has a Northern Ireland number plate the local council must attempt to trace the last registered keeper and send them a written notice that their vehicle has been removed and is being kept in the council’s custody. The owner will then have seven days from the date of the notice being served to reclaim the vehicle before it is disposed of.

The local council may recover costs from the owner or 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 Environmental Health in your local council. Your local council 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 the Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate.

Dog nuisance

Dog mess

Your local council must clear up dog mess from streets, roads and parks, except where there is heath or woodland, or where there are grazing animals. If your local council fails to do this, you may be able to apply for a litter abatement order (see under heading Litter).

A local council 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
  • making a piece of land a 'designated' piece of land. Your local council will have a record of this type of land
  • applying a dog control order to a particular piece of land. Your local council should put up signs if a dog control 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 do not clean up after your dog you may be given a fine of £80 on the spot. If you refuse to pay the fine you can be prosecuted in court. There are exceptions for people with certain disabilities, such as people who are registered blind.

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.

You can get further information on dog fouling from the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

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 council. They can make local laws to make owners keep dogs on leads in particular areas. Dogs which behave dangerously can be seized by the council dog warden and their owners prosecuted.

You can get further information on dog control from the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

Flooding

If you think that your property is in an area which is prone to flooding, you should use the Rivers Agency's Strategic Flood Map.

The Rivers Agency is responsible for providing flood defences in Northern Ireland.

If sufficient defences are not provided, or the Rivers Agency claims they would be too expensive, you can complain using the Rivers Agency complaints procedure. You can find information about the complaints procedure in the ‘Contact us’ section of the Rivers Agency website - 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 a welfare assistance scheme.

Your local council may provide access to the emergency payments scheme, a £1,000 payment available to help make your home habitable as soon as possible. Your council can also help with the collection and disposal of damaged household items, assistance with arrangements to clear up your home and garden and the provision of dehumidifiers to help dry out affected homes.

For more information about help from a welfare assistance scheme, see Extra help if you're on benefits or your benefits have stopped.

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 the Housing Executive as a homeless person.

For more information about making a homeless application to the Housing Executive, go to their website www.nihe.gov.uk.

Litter

It is an offence to drop litter. If you do, you may receive a fixed penalty notice of up to £80. 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 are taken to court you could receive a fine of up to £2,500.

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 council should make sure that streets, parks and open spaces are kept clean. 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 your local council.

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

  • issuing a street litter control notice to a shop owner, requiring them to keep a pavement clear of litter
  • issuing a fixed-penalty notice to a person who drops litter
  • issuing a Litter Clearing Notice requiring the occupier or owner to clear litter from their land. If they fail to do so the council can clear up the land and reclaim the costs.

If your local council is not acting to deal with a litter problem, you can apply to the court for a litter abatement order, in order to have the area cleared.

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 council. You may also want to contact the mobile phone company direct.

The Ofcom website provides details of mobile phone mast locations across the United Kingdom.

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 council, which must investigate the complaint. You should report noise complaints about the illegal use of car horns or noisy vehicles directly to the PSNI.

If your local council 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 has 21 days to appeal. If they do not appeal, or if 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 councils 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 council 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 council can impose a fixed penalty fine on them or prosecute them.

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 council may provide a pest control service, but they may charge for it. If you are a tenant, you should report pests to your landlord.

Your local council must keep 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 council, 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 Transport NI. You should tell Transport NI 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 Transport NI about problems resulting from street works by utility companies (for example, gas, water, electricity) or cable companies. You should for 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.

Your local council is responsible for the maintenance of street furniture, for example, seating, litter bins and cycle racks. Transport NI is responsible for maintenance of traffic lights, street lamps and crossing controls. 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.

Traffic management and parking

Transport NI 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, the local council will 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 Transport NI Division Traffic Section 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 sold, serviced or repaired, you should report the nuisance to your local council.

Waste disposal

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

Your council 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 are unhappy about the way your local council 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 Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

For more information about how to complain to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman see How to use an ombudsman in Northern Ireland

Disposal of electrical appliances

If you are buying a new electrical appliance, the shop that sold it to you must help you dispose of your old appliance. 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 two options when you replace your old appliance. These are:

  • to take your old item back to the shop free of charge
  • direct you to a special local collection site where you can get rid of your old item for free

Shops only have to offer you one of these options. They don't have to let you return your appliance to the shop. The shop may offer you the option to have your item collected when your new item is delivered but you may be charged for this service.

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. Your local council 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 recycling centre for disposal free-of-charge. They will ensure that your old appliance is disposed of safely.

Further help

Councils in Northern Ireland

Find the contact details for your local council at: www.nidirect.gov.uk.

Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DOENI)

The Department of the Environment is responsible for legislation on noise control and on waste management.

Department of the Environment
Goodwood House
45 – 58 May Street
Town Parks
Belfast
BT1 4NN

Tel: 028 9054 0540
E-mail: enquiries@doeni.gov.uk
Website: www.doeni.gov.uk

Flooding Incident Line

To report a flooding incident in Northern Ireland telephone the Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100.

When you ring this number, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a member of staff will take your details and contact the appropriate agency on your behalf.

Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI)

The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) is responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland. The contact details are:-

Health and Safety Executive
83 Ladas Drive
Belfast
BT6 9FR

Tel: 0800 0320 121 (Advice line) or 028 90234 3249 (Belfast HQ)
Fax: 028 9023 5383
E-mail: mail@hseni.gov.uk
Website: www.hseni.gov.uk

Rivers Agency

There is information and help about flooding in Northern Ireland, including how to make a complaint about flood defenses, from the Rivers Agency at www.dardni.gov.uk.

Transport NI

Transport NI is responsible for public roads, footpaths, bridges, street lights and public car parks in Northern Ireland. The contact details are:-

Transport NI
Clarence Court
10 – 18 Adelaide Street
Belfast
BT2 8GB

Tel: 028 9054 0540
Fax: 028 9054 0024
Textphone: 028 9054 0022
E-mail: roads@drdni.gov.uk
Website: www.drdni.gov.uk

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