Top of the (rubbish) pile: England’s smelliest city unmasked in new research

The Smelly Places Index was compiled by analysts from the website, compared major cities through the nation according to a set of fixed criteria, including air pollution, fly-tipping and levels of smoking. Each was then ascribed a “smelly score” out of ten – with Kingston upon Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, top of the (rubbish) pile on 6.75.

Hull has some of the worst congestion in the country (83 seconds per mile on A roads), which contributing to air pollution, as well as a high level of smokers (17.2 percent) and high levels of fly-tipping (23 incidents for every 1,000 people).

Maidstone in Kent comes in second, with a smelly score of 6.27. The town received 132 complaints about foul odours last year.

Maidstone is also served by Southern Water, which has been rated the second-worst water supplier when it comes to sewage pollution, with 102 incidents per 10,000km of the entire Southern Water area.

Blackpool, in Lancashire, comes in third, due in part to its very high smoking rate, with 19.8 percent of the population regularly lighting up.

It also has one of the highest levels of smell complaints, with 81.7 per 100,000 people.

Flo Codjoe, Personal Finance Editor at, told “The city of Kingston upon Hull takes first place as the smelliest city in England according to the study.’

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Other insights from the study include:

  • Doncaster is the worst place for emissions with 6.4 tonnes per capita. CO2 emissions not only add to air pollution, they can cause a stink in the air too.
  • Brighton and Hove is the worst place for congestion, with an average delay of 107.3 seconds per mile. Congestion is one of the main contributors to air pollution and subsequently smells.
  • Newcastle is the worst place for fly-tipping, with 52.6 incidents per 1,000 people. Fly-tipping is a practice that unfortunately saw a significant increase during the lockdowns, with rubbish piled high on the streets and causing foul smells.
  • Manchester is the worst place for smoking with more than one in five adults (20.8 percent) saying that they are smokers.
  • South West Water is the worst area for water and sewage pollution with 131 pollution incidents per 10,000km. One of the worst offenders when it comes to nasty smells hanging over a town or city is pollution in local rivers and other bodies of water.
  • Stoke-on-Trent is the worst place for odour complaints: According to Freedom of Information requests to each town and city, Stoke-on-Trent received the most complaints about nasty smells in 2021, with 860 (or 335.1 complaints per 100,000 people).

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