Problems in your local environment
This information applies to Scotland only
It is an offence to abandon a vehicle on land or on a highway.
A local authority or the police must, by law, remove a vehicle which is abandoned on a highway, or on any other open land in their area. Such vehicles may be impounded and the removal and disposal costs charged to the last registered keeper.
To report an abandoned vehicle, you should contact the environmental health department at your local authority. If the vehicle has been abandoned after being stolen, the registered keeper may not have to pay the costs incurred by the local authority in uplifting and storing or disposal of the vehicle.
If the local authority thinks a vehicle has some value, it must attempt to trace the last registered keeper who has seven days to uplift the vehicle.
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 the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
There may be allotments in your area. Some are run privately but some are owned and leased from the local authority.
From 1 April 2018 a local authority must create and maintain a list of its allotments. It must also create a waiting list for allotments. It must operate a system of fair rents for an allotment and have a food growing strategy. You can get more information from your local authority whose details can be found at www.mygov.scot.
After 1 April 2018 there are a number of situations when a claim for compensation may be made. These are when a lease has been ended and:
- the tenant believes this has created a loss and disturbance for which some compensation is due from the local authority
- the allotment has deteriorated and the local authority may wish to get compensation from the tenant - a tenant may be able to argue that there were circumstances beyond their control that led to the deterioration
- there is a loss of crops to the tenant as a result of the lease ending.
You must get in touch with your local authority if you want to submit a claim after 1 April 2018.
There is very helpful general information on a website called 'All About Allotments' at www.allaboutallotments.co.uk. In addition there is a helpful website about allotments in Scotland called 'Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society' at www.sags.org.uk.
The local authority is responsible for keeping leisure beaches clear of litter from 1 May to 30 September each year. If you are unhappy about the condition of your local beach you can contact the local environmental health department.
Sea water is tested regularly by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Results are published annually on their website.
Community rights to buy and take over land and buildings
In some communities, problems in the environment may be caused by the way land or assets are being used. There is legislation that allows community groups either to buy, rent or take over land or other assets in certain circumstances. Anyone interested in setting up a community group for this purpose can get help from the Community Ownership Support Service at www.dtascommunityownership.org.uk. This Scottish Government funded service can also provide advice to the community group once it is set up about how to buy the land or take over assets.
There is a very helpful summary about asset transfer provided by the Scottish Government.
There is also a helpful Route Map available on the website of the Community Ownership Support Service at www.dtascommunityownership.org.uk that explains all the steps involved in a community group applying to transfer assets of a public body.
Your local authority must clear up dog mess from public pavements.
It is an offence for someone in charge of a dog to fail to remove and dispose of the excrement from a public place. Public places include:
- pavements and roads
- common passages, closes, courts, stairs, back greens
- children's play areas
- pedestrian precincts
- recreational or sporting areas.
If your dog fouls in a public place, you must remove the mess, unless you are a blind person in charge of a guide dog or have a disability that the dog has been trained to assist with and your disability prevents you from clearing up after the dog.
The police or a local authority environmental warden can issue a fixed penalty for dog fouling. If you get a fixed penalty notice, you must pay the penalty by the date on the notice or the fine will be increased. If you disagree with the penalty, you can request a hearing to argue your case by following the information on the back of the fixed penalty notice. If you do nothing and fail to pay the fine, legal action may be taken against you.
If you get a fixed penalty notice that you disagree with and want to argue against it, you can get help from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
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. The owner of a dangerous dog can be fined and/or imprisoned. The local authority can make local laws to make owners keep dogs on leads in particular areas or to ban dogs from places like children's playgrounds. It can also issue someone with a Dog Control Notice that requires them to control their dog. It can insist that certain conditions are met, for example that the dog has to wear a muzzle or have an electronic chip. If someone does not meet the conditions on the Dog Control Notice they can be prosecuted. If someone is attacked by the dog they can take legal action.
If you are concerned about a privately owned property that has been empty for a long time, you can report it to the Empty Homes Advice Service by calling its free helpline on 0344 515 1941 or by emailing email@example.com. The helpline can give advice about the wide range of options available for bringing empty homes back into use and can make referrals to local authority empty homes officers.
If you think that your property is in an area which is prone to flooding, you should contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency's (SEPA) special help line, called Floodline. You can call Floodline to:
- get general information and advice, in English
- get recorded information about the latest flooding information
- sign up to the advance flood warning message service
- report a flooding incident in an emergency
- request a free Flood Warning Information Pack.
Floodline cannot provide detailed information about weather or travelling conditions. You can contact Floodline on: 0345 988 1188.
You can also contact your local authority to check what defences against flooding are provided in your area. The owner of the property or land has the main responsibility for acting to prevent flooding.
If sufficient defences are not provided, the local authority has discretionary powers to construct and maintain defences.
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.
If you are on a low income, you may also be able to get a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund if there is an emergency or the flooding is recognised as a disaster.
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.
Some households in areas with high flooding risk may have had difficulties in renewing insurance for building and contents. If you have had problems like this the information on the website of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency may be helpful. The Scottish Flood Forum can also provide advice about obtaining insurance for properties that are at risk of flooding.
The local authority has responsibility for checking land that may be contaminated and ordering that it is cleaned up. If you are concerned that land may be contaminated you should contact the environmental health department of the local authority.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has a 24 hour pollution helpline that you can use to report accidents or incidents of contamination that need an urgent response on 0800 80 70 60.
If you are annoyed by a bright artificial light, for example, caused by security lighting, you should report the problem to the environmental health department of the local authority who may agree that it is a nuisance. If the local authority does not agree you can take action in the sheriff court.
It is illegal to drop litter. Local authority wardens and the police have the power to issue fixed-penalty notices to anyone caught dropping litter. Failure to pay the fine can result in the offender being prosecuted. Anyone caught dumping litter or waste can be prosecuted.
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 to ask for their help to solve the problem.
Additionally, your local authority can take measures to force private organisations to control litter on their land. It can do this by, for example:
- creating a litter control area, for example, a shopping centre or car park, within which the owner must control litter
- issuing a street litter control notice to a shop owner, requiring them to keep a pavement clear of litter
- issuing a fixed-penalty notice.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has a Fly-tipping stop line called the Dumb Dumpers Stop Line 0845 2 30 40 90.
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.
The Health and Safety Executive can provide information and advice about health issues relating to mobile phone masts.
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 police or environmental health department of your local authority. The police can fine someone who refuses to stop the noise and they can seize sound producing equipment.
If your local authority accepts the complaint is justified, it can serve a warning notice. If the person responsible for the noise does not reduce it s/he may be issued with a fixed penalty notice. If the environmental health department considers that the noise is a statutory nuisance it can issue an abatement notice. The person has 21 days to appeal.
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.
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.
Rights of access to land
Everyone in Scotland has the right to responsible access to land, even that which is privately owned, under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This means that, with the exception of certain places members of the public have the right to access most land and inland water, providing that they act responsibly and respect people's privacy, safety and livelihoods as well as the environment. Some people may refer to this right as the 'right to roam'.
Areas covered by the access rights include mountains, moorland, woods and forests, grassland, margins of fields in which crops are growing, paths and tracks, rivers and lochs, the coast and most parks and open spaces. Access rights can be exercised at any time of day or night. The Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society have a helpful website with more information.
The main places where access rights do not apply are:
- buildings, structures or fixed machinery, including houses and non-residential buildings
- land close to or around houses, including gardens, and land associated with non-residential buildings
- land in which crops are growing
- land next to a school or used by a school
- sports or playing fields when these are in use and where the exercise of access rights would interfere with such use
- land developed and in use for recreation and where the exercise of access rights would interfere with such use
- golf courses (but access rights apply to crossing a golf course provided they don't interfere with any games of golf)
- places like airfields, railways, telecommunication sites, military bases and installations, working quarries and construction sites
- visitor attractions or other places with an established charge for entry.
Streets and pavements
If you have a complaint about the condition of a street or pavement, you should contact the development 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 take legal action against the authority and claim compensation.
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 development 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 development department should be able to tell you which organisation is responsible.
Overhanging trees or shrubs
When trees or shrubs overhang their boundary wall or fence on to a public street or pavement the owner of the trees or shrubs could become liable to pay damages for any injury caused by the overhanging branches. This rule is based on common law established from court decisions on such incidents.
Traffic management and parking
The development 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.
Unless parking in a street is prohibited, or a space is reserved by the local authority for a particular resident, you do not have an automatic right to park directly outside your home or to prevent others from doing so.
It is not an offence to park on the pavement but it is an offence to leave a vehicle in such a way that it causes an obstruction to other people. Although there is no legal definition of what an obstruction is, if the police are called, they will decide if the vehicle is causing an obstruction and can have it removed if the person in charge of it cannot be found.
You should report parked vehicles which are causing a nuisance to the police.
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.
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 Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
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 you 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.
- More about 'Throwing out an old fridge or freezer?' - leaflet on the Scottish Government website
- More about Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment on the SEPA website
Certain dangerous and poisonous weeds can be very invasive. It is against the law to let non-native plants, like Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed, spread into the wild. If you have a problem with a dangerous weed growing into your garden or path you may be able to persuade the owner of the land to treat the weed with a weed killer. In some cases the local authority may be able to get rid of the weed for you. If you have to get together with neighbours to get rid of the weed there are specialist companies for controlling these weeds. You should be able to expect the following from such companies:
- free first visit for a quote
- reasonable charge based on time taken to get rid of the weed and the cost of chemicals used
- guarantee for a reasonable number of years.
Wild animals and plants have protection under the law. They may be protected, for example, because they are rare, or because people harm them. There is more information about plants and animals that are protected species, on the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) website at www.nature.scot.
Non-native plants and animals
It is an offence to plant or allow to grow a non-native plant in the wild, or to release or allow the escape of non-native animals, with the exception of certain species released for shooting or permitted by licensing. Certain areas are exempt, including farmland, horticultural land and premises, burial grounds, allotments, private gardens, roadside verges, and railway embankments in built-up areas.
Wildlife crime may be committed by people who intentionally break the laws protecting wild plants and animals, but someone may accidentally commit an offence, for example, disturbing a colony of bats, or using a gardening technique such as strimming that results in the spread of an invasive non-native plant like Japanese Knotweed.
The Scottish Government has published a code of practice on how to act responsibly within the law to ensure that non-native species do not cause harm to the environment. Failure to comply with the code is not an offence, but it could be used in court as evidence in criminal proceedings. The code is available on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot .
Reporting wildlife crime
There is more information about how to report wildlife crime, including tips for your safety, on the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) section of the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot, and on the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) website at www.nature.scot.
If you are worried about a wind farm or a plan to put one up in your local area you can contact the local planning department. A wind farm can only be constructed if planning permission has been obtained.
You may have to write a letter to start solve your problem.
A bureau may not be able to help you unless you have all the important documents with you.
Environmental Law Centre Scotland
The Environmental Law Centre Scotland is a not-for-profit law centre and registered charity that provides advice on all areas of law that affect the environment. It helps community groups, individuals and the voluntary sector to protect the environment by providing advice, advocacy, training, updates and research. Contact details are:
The Environmental Law Centre Scotland
65 George Street
Environmental Law Foundation
The Environmental Law Foundation is a charity providing support and legal advice on environmental matters to both individuals and local community and neighbourhood groups. Contact details are:
Environmental Law Foundation
16 Baldwin Gardens
Fix My Street
Fix my street 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.
Friends of the Earth (Scotland)
Friends of the Earth campaigns and publishes information about a wide range of environmental issues. It can also provide information and advice to advisers and members of the public. Contact details are:
Friends of the Earth (Scotland) Ltd
5 Rose Street
Tel: 0131 243 2700
Fax: 0131 554 8656
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for a variety of health and safety issues across Britain, including dealing with some environmental issues. The contact details are:
Health and Safety Executive (Scotland East)
59 Belford Road
Health and Safety Executive (Scotland West)
375 George Street
Keep Britain Tidy
Keep Britain Tidy can provide information and advice about litter and improving and maintaining the local environment. The contact details are:
Keep Britain Tidy
Keep Scotland Beautiful
Keep Scotland Beautiful campaigns on waste and litter reduction.
Keep Scotland Beautiful
The Castle Business Park
Tel: 01786 471333
Fax: 01786 464611
Marine Conservation Society (MCS)
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) works to protect the marine environment and its wildlife. MCS also provides a range of resources, including factsheets and books.
Marine Conservation Society (MCS)
Wolf Business Park
National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection Scotland
The National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection Scotland (NSCA Scotland) promotes clean air and environmental protection through the reduction of air, water and land pollution, noise and other contaminants. It can provide information for members of the public and provides leaflets on the subjects of noise, air pollution and contaminated land. Contact details are:
National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection Scotland
c/o Glasgow City Council
Environmental Protection Services
231 George Street
Tel: 0141 287 6530
Fax: 0141 287 6592
Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland)
The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) includes the police, land managers, conservationists and the Scottish Government. You can report suspected crime against wildlife in several ways. There is more information and tips on the Scottish Government website at www.gov.scot. The contact details are:
Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland)
PAW Scotland Co-ordinator
Natural Resources Division
Tel: 0131 244 7140
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
SEPA is responsible for the control of pollution of air, land, sea and water in Scotland. This involves environmental monitoring and general pollution prevention and control duties. It has a number of regional offices.
The corporate office of SEPA is:-
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
Castle Business Park
Pollution hotline: 0800 80 70 60
Floodline: 0845 988 1188
Waste Action Line: 0800 389 5270
Fly-tipping Stop Line: 0845 230 4090
Scottish Flood Forum
The Scottish Flood Forum provides support for, and represents, those who are affected by flooding.
Scottish Flood Forum
c/o SNIFFER: First floor
25 Greenside Place
Helpline (24 hours): 01698 839021
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
Scottish Natural Heritage Scottish Natural Heritage is funded by the Scottish Government. It promotes care for and improvement of the natural heritage. The contact details are:
Scottish Natural Heritage
Great Glen House
UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA)
The UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) represents solicitors and other advisers who are interested in environmental law. A client who wishes to obtain specialist legal advice in relation to an environmental issue may be able to contact a member of the association through its registered office. Contact details are:
UK Environment Law Association (UKELA)
PO Box 487
Tel: 01306 500090
Zero Waste Scotland
Zero Waste Scotland is a national organisation which works with individuals and businesses to reduce waste, increase recycling and find ways of using resources in a sustainable way.
Zero Waste Scotland
Helpline: 0808 100 2040