We receive many enquiries about bonfires, both from people affected by them and from people wanting to do the right thing.
Bonfire smoke can be very irritating and it may cause temporary local air pollution issues.
Some people can be sensitive to smoke and we therefore discourage any burning which might cause smoke drifting onto nearby properties.
Alternatives to a bonfire
Garden waste can be composted at home or collected as part of the Council’s Green Waste service for which there is a charge.
There are no laws prohibiting bonfires altogether, or specifying times when you can burn, but there are laws which might apply if the smoke causes a nuisance.
There are specific regulations which apply to waste generated as a result of a commercial activity, or waste that will cause dark or black smoke. None of these materials can be disposed of by burning.
If you need to report an incident relating to the burning of commercial or agricultural waste, please contact the Environment Agency. Anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine of up to £2000, and concerns about highway safety should be reported to the Police.
The dos and don’ts of Bonfires: How to have a bonfire without causing a nuisance
Bonfires are not the best disposal method for waste and having a bonfire should be a last resort. If you have ruled out all other disposal methods and the only way is to have a bonfire, please consider the following:
- Inform your neighbours
- Burn only during the day
- Locate the bonfire as far away from neighbours as possible
- Have a small fire – it must be controllable and hot enough to burn with minimal smoke
- Consider the weather – ideally no wind or a light breeze, blowing away from nearby houses. Monitor changes in the wind/smoke direction
- Only burn suitable materials – Materials must be dry - this will burn quickly and give off minimal smoke and smell. You may be able to burn dry garden waste, clean wood, paper or card
- Supervise the burning of waste - do not leave it unattended
- Have water available to extinguish the fire
- Have many bonfires – neighbours are more likely to complain if you often have bonfires
- Burn the following: household rubbish, rubber, oil, green garden waste, animal bedding, plastic, tyres, foam or paint - these can produce potentially toxic dark smoke which is unacceptable and might be an offence.
- Leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - douse it with water if necessary and make sure it is out and will not continue to smoke once left
- Use an accelerant to light a fire - oil, petrol or methylated spirits could cause harm to yourself and the environment
- Burn furniture - it is likely to emit significant dark smoke and toxic pollutants
- Burn at weekends or bank holidays - when people want to enjoy their homes and gardens
- Burn during foggy conditions – the smoke will not be able to disperse
Complaining about a bonfire
If you are affected by a problem of bonfire smoke, you may consider the following options:
- Approach your neighbour first - explain the problem to them. You might find this awkward, but they may not be aware of the problem and it may make them more considerate when planning and lighting a bonfire in the future. If you aren’t able to talk to them, perhaps put a note through their door explaining the problem.
- If this approach fails – contact the Environmental Health service by filling in an on-line form or emailing email@example.com. You can ring us on 01395 517456.