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Bonfires and smoke

We have powers to deal with smoke nuisance from any bonfire and to prosecute for dark smoke offences on commercial and industrial premises.

Am I allowed to have a bonfire?

For domestic properties, there are no laws which prohibit having a bonfire. However, it is still possible for bonfires to be considered a statutory nuisance.

There are no set times in law which specify when burning may or may not take place.

Bonfire facts

  • Smoke from bonfires can damage people's health; particularly children. the elderly and those with asthma and other breathing problems
  • Bonfires pollute the environment and worsen air quality. Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials creates noxious fumes which give off poisonous chemicals.
  • Smoke prevents neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out. They can also reduce visibility in the neighbourhood and on roads. If the smoke from your bonfire causes a nuisance to someone, they can make a complaint to the council.
  • Anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine from the police if it endangers traffic
  • It is illegal to burn waste that is not from your property - for example from your workplace or from a neighbour.

What's the alternative to burning?

Before having a bonfire consider alternative methods of waste disposal.

Composting

Composting will provide a useful soil conditioner, saving money on commercial products.

Woody waste can be shredded to make it suitable for composting or mulching. Shredders can be hired or bought.

Recycling

Many items of household waste can be reused or recycled and can be taken to your local recycling centre

When does a bonfire become a statutory nuisance?

We consider the following when assessing whether a bonfire is a statutory nuisance:

  • How much smoke is being created and does it affect nearby properties?
  • What is being burnt? - the type of material being burned affects how much smoke is being produced/ how noxious the fumes from the smoke are
  • How often do the bonfires occur?

Report a bonfire problem

You can report bonfires that regularly cause problems on the pollution control service request or complaint form.

To write or speak to the Environmental Protection Team see the contact details below

Guidance for community bonfires and fireworks

The Department for Communities and Local Government have issued a short guide for organisers covering planning, safety and clearing up after the event.

Read the document on Celebrating with bonfires and fireworks on GOV.UK.

Guidelines to prevent smoke nuisance

  • Before having a bonfire, let your neighbours know. This gives them an opportunity to shut their windows and bring any washing indoors.
  • Avoid having a bonfire when the wind is blowing onto neighbouring properties.
  • Avoid burning when the air is still and damp in the air or in the evenings when smoke tends to hangs on the air
  • Never use petrol, methylated spirits or similar to light the fire
  • Ensure that plastics, painted materials, plywood and chipboard are not burned as they give off poisonous chemicals, some of which can cause cancer.
  • Only burn dry material
  • Never leave the fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - put it out

Dark smoke offences

If a bonfire held on commercial or industrial premises gives rise to dark smoke an offence is committed.

The occupier of the land and the person who caused or permitted the smoke can be taken to court and may be fined.

To take a prosecution for dark smoke it must be confirmed that the smoke met the legal definition of dark smoke. This requires observations of the smoke and burnt material to be undertaken by a trained officer.

Dark smoke offences do not apply to domestic premises "except where trade or industrial waste is burnt on domestic premises".