This section is from the book "The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction", by G. Lister Sutcliffe. Also available from Amazon: How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding & Maintaining Your Home.
(1.) Sanitary Districts and Authorities. For the purposes of Public Health administration, England and Wales are divided into districts, as follows: -
(a) Counties, governed by County Councils.
(b) Urban Sanitary Districts, governed by Urban District Councils.
(c) Rural Sanitary Districts, governed by Rural District Councils.
(d) Besides these larger divisions, the Rural Parishes are for certain purposes governed by Parish Councils or Parish Meetings. Parishes with a smaller population than 300 may be grouped together, so that here and there groups of small parishes have their common Parish Council (Local Government Act, 1894, §§ 1-3).
By A. Wynter Blyth, M.R.C.S: F.L.C, Barrister-At-Law,Lincoln's Inn: Late Chairman Of Council Of The Sanitary Institute Medical Officer Of Health And Public Analyst For The Ventry Of St. Marylebone: Author Of "A Manual Of Public Health". "Lectures On Sanitary Law". Etc.
The Local Government Board exercises a superintending authority over the whole.
(2.) London. The County of London has, to a great extent, a separate sanitary administration, and will be considered separately.
(3.) The Sanitary Powers of County Councils. The County Councils have a certain amount of supervisory power over the administrative smaller areas of the county; if, on investigation, they find that a local District Council is not performing properly its statutory duty, they may make a complaint to the Local Government Board (Public Health Act, 1875, § 299). The County Councils may enforce the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act; they may appoint a Medical Officer of Health; and they have the same power of making by-laws in relation to nuisances within their counties, or any specified part of them, as boroughs under the Municipal Corporations Act (45 and 46 Vict, cap. 50); the by-laws, however, have to be confirmed by the Local Government Board. Such by-laws apply to all parts of a county except boroughs.
(4.) The Sanitary Powers and Duties of Urban and Rural District Councils, and of Parish Councils. These powers, speaking generally, are the abatement of nuisances; the making and maintenance of sewers and the disposal of sewage; the healthy construction of houses; the supervision or enforcement of the provision of water-supplies; the enforcement of provisions relating to infectious diseases; the making and enforcement of by-laws, and the carrying out of various Acts of Parliament relating to occupations, and to food and to sanitation generally. Parish Councils, although possessing but a limited power of dealing with certain specified nuisances (Local Government Act 1894, § 8), can do great good to the community by drawing the attention of the District Councils to nuisances, insanitary dwellings, inadequate and polluted water-supplies, and other evils.
(5.) Distinction between "Nuisance" at Common Law and "Nuisance" under the Sanitary Acts. The term "nuisance" is a wide one. Nuisances in a legal may be divided into: 1. Nuisances at Common Law; and 2. Nuisances under the Public Health and Sanitary Acts.
Nuisance at Common Law does not come within the scope of this treatise. All that need be said is that Common Law nuisances are usually divided into Public (or Common) and Private Nuisances.
Public N are abated by indictment. They are supposed (at all events technically) to be matters which cause inconvenience or damage to the public in the exercise of their common rights; such, for example, as the obstruction of a highway, interference with the navigation of a stream, the rage of explosive substances in places likely to be dangerous, noise, indecent exposure, and several matters affecting the public morals. Some classes of nuisance which may be proceeded against by indictment, might also be dealt with under the Public Health Act, 1875; such, for example, as pollution of the air, and smoke from a factory.
Private Nuisances are defined as acts interfering with the proprietary rights of another in land, but which do not amount to a trespass. Special annoyance from noise or from smoke have been considered to belong to this category. The remedy is an action for damages, or for an injunction, or for both.
(6.) Nuisance under the Public Health and Sanitary Acts. Nuisances under the above Acts will be usually embraced in the following definition: -
A nuisance is something which is either expressly declared to be so by statute, or, where not mentioned expressly, it is something which either actually injures or is likely to injure health, and admits of a remedy, either by the individual whose act or omission causes the nuisance, or by the Local Authority.
Throughout England and Wales (save London) the chief section of the Public Health Act, 1875, operative against nuisances, is Section 91. This section states that premises, pools, ditches, gutters, water-courses, privies, urinals, cesspools, drains, ash-pits, animals, accumulations, and deposits, may all be nuisances or injurious to health; the section also declares that overcrowding in houses, rooms, vans, tents, sheds, or similar structures used for human habitation, to a degree "dangerous or injurious to the inmates", is to be considered a nuisance. Factories (not under the operation of the Factory Acts), workshops, and workplaces, not kept in a cleanly state or ventilated in such a manner as to render harmless the gases, vapours, or dust generated therein, come under the same category; overcrowding while work is carried on, if dangerous or injurious to health, is also considered a nuisance. Fireplaces or furnaces used for working engines by steam, or in any mill, factory, bakehouse, dye-house, brewery, or gas work, not consuming, "as far as practicable", their smoke, and chimneys (other than those of private dwellings) sending out "black smoke" in quantity, are all nuisances within the meaning of the section.
The word nuisance is also connected by the Public Health Act, 1875, with the destruction, cleansing, or discontinuing of sewers (§ 18); the cleansing, covering, or ventilation of sewers (§ 19); the disposal of sewage (§ 27); the construction of drains, water-closets, earth-closets, privies, ash-pits, and «• pools (§§ 40, 41); with snow, filth, dust, ashes, and rubbish (§ 44); with swine, pigsties, waste and stagnant water in cellars and dwellings; with the overflow of the contents of water-closets, privies, and cesspools (§ 47); and with certain offensive trades (§§ 112, 113, 114).
Abandoned shafts of quarries and mines within fifty yards of a path or road in unenclosed land are also to be considered nuisances under the Public Health Act, 1875, the Quarry Fencing Act, 1887 (50 and 51 Viet., cap. 19), the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887 (50 and 51 Vict, cap. 68), and the Metalliferous Mines Act, 1872 (35 and 36 Vict, cap. 77).
The law as to nuisance not only applies to houses, but also to all ships and vessels under the British flag (other than her Majesty's ships) lying in any river, harbour, or other water within the district of a Local Authority (Public Health Act, 1875, § 110).
(7.) Information as to Nuisances. Information respecting nuisances may be given to the Local Authority by any person aggrieved by the nuisances, or by any two inhabitant householders, or by any officer of the Local Authority, or by the relieving officer, or by any constable or police officer of the district (Public Health Act, 1875, § 93).
(8.) Abatement of Nuisance. On receipt of such information, and if satisfied that the nuisance exists, the Authority is bound to serve a notice on either the owner or occupier, or the person causing or suffering the nuisance, the owner being served in cases of some structural detects. If there is no fault with regard to owner or occupier, and the person causing the nuisance cannot be found, then the Local Authority may abate the nuisance (Public Health Act, 1875, § 94). Should the notice of the Local Authority not be obeyed, a summons is applied for. When this is granted, the case is heard before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, which court, if satisfied of the existence of a nuisance, is compelled to make an order to abate it. or both to abate it and prevent its recurrence. A penalty may also be imposed and cants. There are various powers possessed by the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, one of the most important of which is the power of closing premises as unfit for habitation, until the premises are rendered tit for that purpose (Public Health Act, 1875, §§ 95, 96, 97, 98).
In certain cases there is a power of appeal to the Local Government Board by a person aggrieved by a notice from a Local Authority (Public Health Act, 1875, § 268). A person aggrieved by an order or conviction of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction has also the power of appeal under certain conditions to Quarter Sessions (Public Health Act, 1875, § 269).