Light pollution

Light pollution can be defined as any form of artificial light which shines outside the area it needs to illuminate. This also includes light that is directed above the horizontal into the night sky creating sky glow or which creates a danger by glare. The most common examples of light pollution come from domestic and small scale security lighting that are incorrectly aligned and cause too much glare.

Light pollution can be deemed to be a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 where artificial light is emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance. This means light that is adversely impacting a person's reasonable use or enjoyment of their property rather than the brightness of the light alone. For example, a light shining directly in to someone's bedroom would be considered light pollution regardless of the brightness of that light. 

This page covers information on the following:

How you can prevent lights causing a nuisance

Careful planning, installation and use of lighting will prevent most of the common issues that can arise. By considering areas such as lamp intensity, beam angle, and mounting height you can ensure you do not affect your neighbours, as well as save yourself money on energy costs. 

To prevent your light becoming a nuisance you should:

  • only use the amount of lighting you need
  • position lights so you only need to use the minimum number of lights
  • dim or switch off lights when they are not required
  • use lights that switch off automatically when natural light is available or when they are not required, for example, using motion detectors
  • use baffles, shields and louvres to reduce obtrusive light
  • angle your lights downwards or use light fittings that reduce light shining upwards
  • check that security lights do not produce excessive glare which could affect drivers or neighbours
  • consider using security lights that are activated by movement, but check that they are only triggered by humans and not animals

If a neighbour approaches you to inform you that your lights are affecting them, adjusting the direction or angle of your light can address the problem without requiring a full replacement of your lighting. A good rule of thumb when setting the angle of your lights is to ensure that they are less than 70 degrees from the vertical. 

How you can take action about light nuisance

First, approach the person causing the light pollution and explain politely that you are being troubled by it. It’s very likely that they don’t realise the lighting is causing a problem for you and in our experience, people very much prefer their neighbours to raise issues directly with them rather than have an approach from an Environmental Health Officer. Often the remedy is quite simple. A minor adjustment may be all that is required, or maybe an agreement about when lights should be turned on or off.

If the owner of the lighting is unwilling to remedy the situation to your satisfaction you can take a private legal action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, or contact Environmental Health to make a complaint.

Investigating your complaint

In the first instance we will ask you to complete a diary (PDF 88KB) for two weeks and to send digitally photographs or video showing the effect the lighting is having on you and the enjoyment of your property. Keep a detailed note of the time and dates the lighting is on using the diary sheet, describe any actions you had to take to avoid the disturbance and include any other comments you wish to make on how the light is affecting you at that time.

After having reviewed your diary and photographs if we consider that your complaint can be investigated under statutory nuisance we will write to the source drawing their attention to the complaint. Officers from our Environmental Health Service will then begin an investigation to determine whether the light pollution is a likely to constitute a statutory nuisance. This may require an officer to visit your property. As part of this investigation the Officer has to take into account the impact, locality, time, frequency, duration, convention, importance and avoidability of the light source.

The situation will be assessed in line with the Scottish Governments guidance on the Public Health Act (Scotland) 2008.

Development control

For new development, the potential for light pollution will be considered at the planning stage.

Where a new lighting scheme is proposed, developers will be asked to provide a statement regarding the proposed lighting scheme.

The statement should include:

If developers are unsure which Environmental Zone applies, please contact Environmental Health for advice.

Reporting a breach of planning

If you have concerns about a lighting scheme that you think may be unauthorised, or may breach planning controls, you can report this to our planning team.