THERE has been a whirlwind of changes for council environmental health officers during the coronavirus pandemic – dealing with a huge range of social distancing issues, fly-tipping and noise complaints.

They have also been working to ensure compliance with Government guidance - and investigating any non-compliance.

When lockdown began, so did a flurry of complaints against businesses that were allegedly not complying with closures or social distancing guidelines.

Sharon Lord, senior chartered environmental health officer at Craven District Council, went from her usual tasks of carrying out food safety inspections, to responding to all these concerns.

“When lockdown first began we were dealing with all the social distancing complaints,” she said.

“We’ve been carrying out visits, checking that premises are following all the guidelines and keeping up to date with the guidelines.

“People have generally been understanding. In some stores, we can give them the guidance but if their head office is telling them their company policy is different, it’s difficult for them.”

Craven District Council now has an agreement with North Yorkshire County Council’s Trading Standards. The district council investigates licensed premises, cafes and restaurants and accommodation, while trading standards will investigate issues with retail premises, hairdressers, beauticians and gyms, once these sectors are allowed to open.

Any workplace complaints are dealt with by the Health and Safety Executive.

There have also been a number of complaints about people staying on campsites and in holiday cottages. “It’s not always as clear as it seems – some NHS workers have been using holiday cottages to isolate to protect their families,” said Sharon.

“We’ve also been working with businesses in the town centre to come up with guidance for those that will be reopening, and looking at areas of the town where there might not be enough space for queues and for the public to get past. We’ve asked them to look at queuing zones; in some areas they’re putting tape on the ground.

“It’s all about providing guidance now, going forward, and making sure everyone can access that guidance.

“We try and do the best we can but sometimes it’s not what the public want. People have generally been really understanding and worked with us rather than against us.”

The Cleaner Neighbourhoods team within Environmental Health has also been busy, with an increase in flytipping and complaints between neighbours.

Erin Duckworth only started working as an environmental health officer for the council in January this year.

“I’ve only been in the post for a few months, and I’ve picked up a lot more responsibility since then,” she said.

“We had a big increase in fly-tipping while the household waste recycling centres were closed. That doesn’t only impact on environmental health staff but it also has a knock-on effect on waste management. People have been dumping clothing, children’s toys, having clear-outs and then just getting rid of everything.

“When we first went into lockdown we weren’t able to investigate fly-tips as thoroughly as we normally do, but since restrictions have been eased we have been investigating to look for evidence so we can prosecute.”

The team has also been working with landlords and tenants to ensure that tenants are still protected from any hazards in their homes, whilst also adhering to government guidelines.

There has also been a rise in domestic noise and burning complaints. “People have been out in their gardens a lot, lighting barbecues and burning wood and garden waste,” said Erin.

“We always encourage neighbours to discuss any issues but it has usually gone past that point if they have come to us. During lockdown we haven’t been able to go and listen to the noise nuisance ourselves, which is what we would usually do. We can’t go into homes to set up monitoring equipment. But we have been giving people as much advice and help as we can.

“Everyone has been fine with us – I haven’t had any issues; people have been really understanding.”

However, she is looking forward to being able to get back to normal when possible. “As a team we consult each other a lot for support and guidance to deal with issues, and we haven’t been able to have that face to face contact,” she said. “But as a team we’ve coped with it really well.”

For more information about Craven District Council’s Environmental Health team, go to

To contact Craven District Council’s Environmental Health team, email

To contact North Yorkshire County Council’s Trading Standards, email: or call: 0808 2231133

To contact the Health and Safety Executive, telephone: 0300 7906787 or go to