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It is a common misconception that there are specific byelaws that prohibit garden bonfires or specify times they can be lit - there aren't. If only dry garden waste is burnt the occasional bonfire should not cause a major problem.


However, where a neighbour is causing a problem by burning rubbish, the law is on your side. Under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 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 statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a persistent problem, interfering substantially with your well being, comfort or enjoyment of your property.


If the council considers a bonfire to be a nuisance, it can issue an ‘abatement notice’. This notice may mean your neighbour must stop having bonfires completely. If they do not stick to the notice (‘comply’) they face a fine of up to £5000 and a further £500 for each day they don't comply.


If a bonfire of industrial/commercial waste is emitting black smoke it is dealt with under the Clean Air Act 1993.


Commercial Bonfire information 


Danger to Traffic caused by smoke

Under the Highways Act 1980, anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine if it endangers traffic. If this happens, call the police.


Health Effects
Emissions from bonfires can have damaging health effects. Serious harm is unlikely if exposure to bonfire smoke is brief. However problems may be caused for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions and children.Bonfire



The smoke, smuts, and smell from bonfires are the subject of many complaints to local authorities. Smoke prevents your neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out, and reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and on roads. Allotments near homes can cause particular problems if plot holders persistently burn waste.


Fire can spread to fences or buildings and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned. Piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge by animals, so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets.


Bonfire Guidelines
If a bonfire is the best practicable option for disposing of garden waste, follow these guidelines and the chances are you won't annoy your neighbours or cause 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 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 neighbours gardens and across roads.


  • Avoid lightening a bonfire when your neighbours have washing drying, or are out enjoying their gardens or have windows open.


  • No not leave your fire to smoulder for long periods. Never leave a fire unattended. Hose it down until cold before you leave it.

Barbeques can also cause a smoke problem - especially if you use lighter fuel. If the weather is still and sunny, a barbeque will contribute to photochemical smog (this is formed in the summer, by the action of sunlight on pollutants). Barbeques contribute to air pollution on still sunny days. Again, be considerate. If you are having a barbeque, tell your neighbours. Don't ignite it when they've got their washing out, and if its windy check that smoke won't blow straight into neighbouring properties.  Find out more about reducing the impact of your barbeque from Recycle Now

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Here you will find information on environmental and planning issues. This section provides a wealth of information including details on how to make or enquire about a planning application, rubbish, waste and recycling information.


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