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Christmas lights:  festive fun or a neighbour’s nightmare?

Posted by Jessica Thompson on 14th December 2016

In the run up to Christmas there are a few important questions people ask themselves, for example, who to buy gifts for, how much food to buy for the festive period and, most importantly, when and how to put the decorations up!


But how far is too far when decorating your home?


In 2002, Section 102 of the Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment Act amended the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to specifically deal with lighting and the problem of light pollution.


The amendment broadened the meaning of “statutory nuisance” to include “artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.”


Artificial light includes decorative lighting of buildings and even laser shows and light art, and at an extreme can therefore include large scale Christmas light displays.


It is common during Christmas time to read headlines such as “neighbour finds Christmas lights “annoying”” and “no cheer in Christmas lights row”, but there have been cases where excessive decorative lighting has in fact ended in Court. For example, in 2000, residents of a Scottish town won a legal battle against one of their neighbours, restricting his Christmas light show (consisting of 8,500 bulbs) to three hours every afternoon, and in Reading, even a three year banning order was granted, preventing a home owner using more than 300 lights on his home to raise money for charity.


As many lightshows raise a great deal of money for Charity and bring communities together, it is important for home owners to keep the balance right, between what is reasonable and what could potentially become a nuisance.


When thinking about your Christmas lights, it really is a question of not only personal taste but what your neighbour’s taste might be! Many people are happy to take part in the Christmas displays but some have concerns not only about the resulting problems caused by the shows, such as traffic and even theft, but also environmental concerns.


As there are no set levels for light to be considered a statutory nuisance, it is hard to give definitive advice on what could be considered a nuisance in the festive period, but all homeowners should be aware of the potential problems resulting from “OTT” light displays, not only for their neighbours but also their electricity bill!


Having trouble with a nuisance neighbour or in need of property advice?


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