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We regulate a variety of activities and practices in a bid to reduce and prevent offensive odours.

Regulating odour is one of the most difficult areas of our work – odour is a highly complex and subjective issue and what is offensive to one person may not be offensive to another.

We have published Odour guidance on dealing with activities that could cause offensive odour. Although the guidance is aimed at aimed at SEPA officers, it can also be referred to by members of the public and industrial operators.

This section of our website explains in more detail how we deal with this issue from a scientific perspective and through management and regulation.

What is odour?

Odour is perceived by our brains in response to chemicals present in the air we breathe. Humans have a good sense of smell and can detect odour even when chemicals are present in very low concentrations.

Although the main issue with odour is that it is a nuisance, it can also present risks to health or to the quality of the environment.

As such, it is vital to prevent or reduce offensive odours where possible and to regulate activities that may cause odours or make them worse.

How is odour regulated?

We have the power to regulate activities which may cause offensive odours if they are subject to controls under existing regulations. This can be under:

  • the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (as amended) – known as the PPC regulations and the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulation 2012 that came into force on 7 January 2014;
  • Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which is the waste management licensing regime and is known as Part II of EPA90.

However, activities which are not controlled by those regulations but produce offensive odour are classed as a statutory nuisance and are dealt with by local authorities under Part III of EPA90.

The planning system, under the Town and Country Planning Scotland Act 1997, has an important role in preventing or minimising odour impacts from new or changed developments. We consult on most planning applications and act as statutory consultees should a larger development have to undertake environmental impact assessments.

The Scottish Government has made available more information on the planning regime in Scotland.

Contact us

For more advice, information or details of any aspect to do with odour please contact us.