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Smoke and bonfire nuisance


A statutory nuisance would exist if the bonfires 'substantially interfered with the well-being, comfort or enjoyment of an individual's property'

Bonfires and the law

There are no byelaws banning bonfires or restricting the days or times when they are acceptable. Bonfires which prevent your neighbours from using their garden, opening their windows or hanging out their washing for example can cause distress and may constitute a statutory nuisance.  A statutory nuisance would exist if the bonfires 'substantially interfered with the well-being, comfort or enjoyment of an individual's property'.  Usually this would mean that bonfires were excessive, prolonged and on a regular basis. 

The burning of waste is not considered environmentally friendly as many toxic chemicals can be released  that may harm human health or the environment. Even garden trimmings that are still green give off lots of smoke, and materials like plastics and rubber create poisonous chemicals when they are burnt.

What should you do if you are concerned?

If you have a complaint, it is best to discuss it initially with the person responsible; they may not realise they are causing a problem. Try to be reasonable, otherwise your discussions are likely to end in further argument. Explain the details of your complaint and try to agree on a reasonable solution or compromise.

Bonfire guidelines

If you have garden waste to dispose of, try and compost as much as possible. Consider using a shredding machine, which can reduce hardwood materials into mulch for use on your garden. The remainder can be taken to one of the household waste recycling centres. If you must light a bonfire here are some tips:

  • Ensure that the material to be burnt is dry. This will minimise the amount of smoke produced.
  • Do not light a fire when the weather conditions might cause the smoke to travel into your neighbours garden or property.
  • Remember that smoke will hang in the air on a damp, windless day and in the evening around sunset.
  • Position any bonfire as far away from buildings as possible. Do not light a fire if the wind will carry the smoke over roads.
  • Never leave a fire to smoulder - put it out with water or soil.
  • Remember, heaps of garden refuse provide a haven for small animals such as hedgehogs. Check before you light.
  • Take care to keep children away from a bonfire. Supervise burning as much as possible.
  • Burn only dry plant/wood waste. Do NOT burn any wood that is treated/painted or any other household waste

What hours can I have a bonfire?

It is a common misconception that there are "bonfire bylaws" that control the hours you are allowed to have domestic bonfires. There are no such rules and instead we assess whether the bonfires are causing a statutory nuisance (Environmental Protection Act 1990). This has to be judged on a case by case basis and essentially we consider whether the impacts are reasonable with reference to:

  • Duration
  • Severity
  • Frequency
  • Common convention (e.g. occasional garden bonfires are often considered reasonable, whilst burning plastics, domestic refuse is not)

Guidance

Further more detailed information can be found in the leaflets below.

How to complain

If you wish to complain you can call us on the number below, or online here:  Report a nuisance - noise or other pollution

Useful Links

Legislation

Organisations/Professional Bodies