Environmental and pollution problems

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales


Some allotments are run privately, but some are owned and leased from the local council.

The local council must:

  • have a list of its allotments

  • have a waiting list for allotments

  • operate a system of fair rents for an allotment

  • have a food growing strategy.

You can get more information from your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

There's helpful general information on All About Allotments and you'll find Scotland-specific advice on Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society.

Claiming compensation

If there’s a problem with an allotment, there are a number of situations when a claim for compensation may be made. These are when a lease has been ended and:

  • this has created a loss and disturbance of the enjoyment of the allotment

  • there is a loss of crops to the tenant as a result of the lease ending.

The local council might want to get compensation from the tenant if the allotment has deteriorated during the lease. However, a tenant might be able to argue that there were circumstances beyond their control that caused this.

You should get in touch with your local council or check their website if you want to submit a claim. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Abandoned or neglected land

In some communities, problems in the environment might be caused by the way land or assets are being used. There is legislation that allows community groups to buy, rent or take over land or other assets in certain circumstances.

Read more about community rights to buy and take over land.

Access to land

If a landowner is stopping you accessing land, check if the right to access land applies.

Everyone in Scotland has the right to responsible access to land. This means that, with the exception of certain places like a garden, you have the right to access most land and inland water. This is only if you act responsibly and respect people's privacy, safety and livelihoods as well as the environment. Access rights can be exercised at any time of day or night.

There are some places where access rights don’t apply. These include land:

  • close to or around houses, including gardens

  • next to and used by a school

  • in which crops are growing.

You can find out more about access rights on the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society website.


Read about how to prepare for flooding.

Bright light

If you’re annoyed by a bright artificial light, for example caused by security lighting, you should report the problem to the environmental health department of your local council.

Find your local council on mygov.scot. If the local council doesn’t agree, you can take action in the sheriff court.


The local council is responsible for keeping leisure beaches clear of litter from 1 May to 30 September each year. If you’re unhappy with the condition of your local beach, you can contact the local environmental health department. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Sea water is tested regularly by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Results are published annually on the SEPA website.

The Marine Conservation Society works to protect the marine environment and its wildlife. More information can be found on the Marine Conservation Society website.

Wind farms

If you’re 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 granted. Find more about the planning system in Scotland on the Scottish government website.

Mobile phone masts

If you want to complain about the siting of a planned mobile phone mast in your area, you can contact the planning department of your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

You might also want to contact the mobile phone company directly.


The local council is responsible for checking land that might be contaminated and ordering that it’s cleaned up. If you’re concerned that land might be contaminated, you should contact the environmental health department of the local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

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. The helpline is 0800 80 70 60.


It’s illegal to drop litter. Local council wardens and the police have the power to issue fixed-penalty notices to anyone caught dropping litter. Failing to pay the fine can result in prosecution. Anyone caught dumping litter or waste can be prosecuted.

Your local council should make sure that streets, parks and open spaces are kept clean. Local councils and other public bodies, such as government departments and transport operators, must also keep their own public land clear of litter and refuse.

Keep Scotland Beautiful campaigns for waste and litter reduction. More information can be found on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website.  

How to report littering

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 council's environmental health department.

If you want to report litter on land owned by a private organisation, you should contact the organisation first. If no action is taken, you can contact your local council - they can force private organisations to control litter on their land. They can, for example:

  • create a litter control area, for example, a shopping centre or car park, within which the owner must control litter

  • issue a street litter control notice, for example, to a shop owner, requiring them to keep a pavement clear of litter

  • issue a fixed-penalty notice.

How to report flytipping

You can report flytipping to the local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Bin collections and recycling

The collection and recycling of most types of waste are the responsibility of your local council. This will be the case even if the council has contracted its waste collection services out to a private contractor. A local council might charge for the collection of large items.

If you’re unhappy about the way your local council collects or disposes of waste, you should use their internal complaints procedure. Find your local council on mygov.scot. If you’re unhappy with the outcome, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Getting rid of electrical appliances

If you’re 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, computer equipment and many other electrical goods, such as tools and sports equipment.

Shops must offer you at least one of 3 options for getting rid of your old appliance. These are:

  • to take your old item back to the shop

  • to be directed 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.

How to get rid of a fridge or freezer

If you need to dispose of an old fridge or freezer, and you’re 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 council must provide a collection service for bulky items, but they can charge a fee. Alternatively, you can take your appliance to your local recycling or dump site for disposal. They will ensure that your old appliance is disposed of safely. You can find out more about waste and electrical equipment on the SEPA website.

Pest control

You’re 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 council might provide a pest control service, but there might be a charge. If you’re a tenant, you should report pests to your landlord. Read about how to deal with pests if you're a tenant on the Shelter Scotland website.

Pests in your neighbour's property

If you suspect there are pests in a neighbouring property, you should approach the owner first if you feel comfortable.

If your neighbour refuses to clear up a problem of infestation by pests, you can complain to your local council. The local council can inspect the property and clear it up themselves, and they can charge the owner for this. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Contacting the local council

Your local council must keep such pests under control on their own land and property. If you’re concerned about pests, you should contact the environmental health department of your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Further help

Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland

The Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland is a charity providing support and legal advice on environmental matters to both individuals and local community and neighbourhood groups.

Find more information on the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland website.  

UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA)

The UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) represents solicitors and other advisers who are interested in environmental law. If you want to get specialist legal advice about an environmental issue, you might be able to contact a member of the association through its registered office.

Details can be found on the UKELA website.

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