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What Control Do Environmental Health Officers Have Over Nuisance Flies?

Rowan Burgess |

Disclaimer: This article was not written by legal professionals and does not serve as legal advice. If you need legal assistance, please seek a qualified solicitor.

Environmental Health Officers have the authority to control nuisance fly populations under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

What does this mean? They control insects that are detrimental to health and emanate from industrial, trade, or business premises - including farms and other commercial agricultural operations.

This Act does not include naturally occurring concentrations of insects on open and biodiverse land. However, failure to control nuisance flies affects animal welfare, human health, profitability, and yield. Let's get into the next steps to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.

What’s an Environmental Permit?

An environmental permit is a document regulating certain activities which have the potential to pollute the environment and are injurious to public health.

An environmental permit acts as a license for certain activities. If you require one and operate without one, it's bad news for you and your farm.

Local councils or environmental agencies typically issue these permits.

What Happens If I’m Served an Abatement?

First, local councils must react to the ‘statutory nuisance’ defined by the Environmental Health Act 1990. 

This Act was extended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 to include nuisance fly populations from commercial premises. 

Second, councils use their Environmental Health Officers to issue an abatement notice if a statutory nuisance occurs. If you're served with an abatement notice, you must comply with its conditions.

Complaints on a Farm With an Environmental Permit

Any breach of legislation resulting in a statutory nuisance on a farm with an environmental permit is then investigated by the Environment Agency.

Because this is a potential breach of the permit, there’s no abatement notice and no right of appeal. The EA can move straight to prosecution.

Complaints on a Farm Without an Environmental Permit

In this case, the local council usually deals with nuisance fly complaints on a farm without an environmental permit as a statutory nuisance. Let's get into what happens during an investigation.

What Happens During an Investigation from an EHO?

An investigation from the Environmental Health Office is an opportunity to delay any enforcement action - by demonstrating correct protocols or agreeing to implement changes.

Tips if an EHO Is Conducting an Investigation

Be Professional

An investigation is a red flag for any farming or agricultural business; it's essential to remain professional. Courtesy and an open approach can influence subsequent actions.

An EHO may be friendly and relaxed, but don’t lose your cool if the EHO is confrontational or difficult. They're just doing their job!

Keep Notes

Keep a written record of any verbal conversations – in person and over the phone – and take notes after all site visits. Be prompt here!

Agree on the mutual content with the EHO shortly after the conversation or visit. These conversations could be relied on at a court hearing in a few months’ time.

Have a Witness Present

We recommend having a witness present during any investigatory visit - even better with a professionally-appointed expert. Witnesses can give their own statements in a court hearing if required.

Take Your Own Photos

Taking photos or shooting videos says more than a thousand words when describing a fly infestation. Without counting and documenting the flies, it’s nearly impossible to describe the volume or share proof.

Ensure Integrated Fly Control is in Place

Integrated fly control is multi-faceted. We recommend dealing with the fly problem in various ways. For example, you could spray an infestation topically or fog the space to treat the larval stage.

A fly control system must be documented, not least because some long-term insecticides may not be apparent when the EHO visits. Keep a log for both personal and professional documentation.

The system should comply with the latest industry standards for your unit type. Independent verification may also carry weight - such as following the guidance of Defra, or the Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs. Whatever you choose, cover all of your bases to show care, diligence, and professional aptitude.

Get Expert Advice 

Expert advice helps on several different fronts. First, it’ll resolve a large infestation and prevent it from occurring again. 

Importantly, professionals can also help you defend an abatement notice - on the basis that the fly infestation is insufficient to constitute a statutory nuisance. Likewise, they may defend that the statutory nuisance is not coming from your farm or agricultural premises.

Keep a Record of Fly Activity

Keeping a record of fly activity is essential. It demonstrates a reduction of the infestation and a willingness to comply with an abatement notice. In certain circumstances, it may also show that your premises are not the origin of the problem.

Using fly papers in an adjacent office or farmhouse can demonstrate a fluctuating fly population, which always seems higher on the day of an EHO visit! 

Likewise, records can also show a correlation between local complaints and low fly numbers, suggesting that your particular farm isn't the source of fly nuisance.

Most farmers and agricultural operators must be proactive in these situations - but try to remain undefensive. There’s often an implicit assumption that a poultry or dairy farm is the source of any infestation. You’ll have to prove otherwise. Document, document, document.

How Can I Defend an Abatement Notice? 

Environmental Health Officers must demonstrate that the fly infestation constitutes a statutory nuisance. This means it must unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises. It must also injure health or be likely to damage health.

One way to defend an abatement notice is to allege that either there is no fly infestation or, if there is one, it doesn’t go over the threshold or constitute a statutory nuisance. 

Other grounds for appeal include the notice being served on the wrong person or being defective in some key detail.

It’s also a defence to an abatement notice that, at the point of service, integrated fly control was in place as verified by an independent expert.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do You Have to Appeal an Abatement Notice?

You have 21 days to appeal an abatement notice via the magistrate’s court. Legitimate grounds for appeal include no statutory nuisance or that a fly infestation doesn’t reach the threshold to cause a nuisance. Other grounds for appeal include the abatement notice being defective or served on the wrong person.

Can the Environmental Agency Take Me to Court?

Yes, failure to comply could land you in court with a fine. The fine is a lump sum and a daily rate for every day of non-compliance. If the premises have an environmental permit, permission must be obtained from the Secretary of State to prosecute.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re awaiting a visit from an EHO to your farm or premises to investigate fly nuisance or want to protect your stock and improve yields, Dalton Engineering is a premier supplier of fly control products.

We help farmers implement fly and insect control on various premises with different stocking densities and scales - from large commercial units to smallholders and hobby farms. Consult the experts today!