Garden bonfires

Bonfires may be fun, but they are not usually the most environmentally friendly way of getting rid of rubbish.

Bonfires cause air pollution. Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp and smouldering rather than dry and blazing. This can affect people’s breathing and can be a particular problem to anyone who is asthmatic, suffers from bronchitis or has a heart condition.

The Council can investigate complaints about smoke from garden bonfires.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, a statutory nuisance includes "smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance". In practice, to be considered a nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a regular problem and interfering substantially with your wellbeing, comfort or enjoyment of your property.

If you’re being bothered by persistent bonfire smoke it’s best to speak to your neighbour first and explain the problem. You might feel awkward, but they may not be aware of the distress they are causing and it will hopefully make them more considerate in the future. If this approach fails, contact us for more advice.

Good bonfire guidelines

If you are going to have a bonfire, the first thing to do is to warn your neighbours  - they are much less likely to complain about it if you do.

Then follow these guidelines to avoid causing a serious nuisance:

  • only burn dry material
  • never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
  • never use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire or to encourage it
  • avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening, if it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbour’s gardens and across roads
  • avoid burning at weekends and on bank holidays when people want to enjoy their gardens
  • avoid burning when the air quality in your area is "poor" or "very poor”
  • never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - douse it with water if necessary.

Smoke from chimneys

Smoke from chimneys at commercial and residential premises can also be a nuisance. In some parts of the district deemed as smoke control areas, it’s an offence to emit smoke from a chimney.