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Bonfires and Smoke Nuisance

Every year the Environmental Protection Team receive a large number of complaints about bonfires causing a repeated nuisance. Such nuisances need never arise if due consideration is shown to our neighbours. This page explains the law and gives some suggestions to help prevent a nuisance being caused.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows the Local Authority to take persistent offenders to court should their bonfires cause a nuisance to neighbours (i.e. have an unreasonable effect on their enjoyment of their home or garden).

Moreover a bonfire on trade premises which causes dark smoke may be causing an offence regardless of whether anybody else is affected (section 2, 1993 Clean Air Act). The fines could be up to £20,000 for each offence. If you would like to complain to us it is likely that we will ask you to keep a diary of events. This will assist officers investigating your complaint.

Smokeless Zones

Smoke control areas only refer to emissions from chimneys not bonfires. There are no smoke control areas in Charnwood so there is no requirement for residents to only burn smokeless fuel.  Although it is not an offence for smoke to be emitted from a domestic chimney there are two requirements for residents to be aware of.  Firstly any emissions can be investigated if there are allegations that the smoke is causing a nuisance at another resident’s property.  Secondly, it is an offence to emit dark smoke from a chimney.  In both cases owners of solid fuel burning appliances can minimise problems for themselves and other residents by ensuring that the appliance is correctly installed and regularly serviced and operated according to manufacturer’s instructions.  In addition, users should ensure that the chimney is also correctly installed, lined and sound in construction with the correct pot fitted and swept at least once a year.  The chosen fuel should be dry, uncontaminated by paint or preservatives and suitable for the appliance. 

If you are considering installing a wood burning stove or any other solid fuel appliance you must firstly contact the Council’s Building Control team on 01509 634924 to discuss obtaining Building Regulations consent.    

Alternatives to Domestic Bonfires (Safer and Less Environmentally Damaging).

  • Composting (or burying) soft garden waste such as grass cuttings and leaves is the best means of disposal as it returns humus and nutrients to the soil. Home composters are available at a reduced price from the Council. For further information see the recycling part of this website.
  • Woody garden waste such as rose prunings cannot be easily composted so may be disposed of by cutting them relatively short and then packing into bags or boxes and taking to one of the refuse amenity disposal sites: Loughborough (Railway Terrace), Shepshed (Hathern Road), or Mountsorrel (Granite Way).
  • Our Cleansing Section provides a garden waste collection service through a brown wheelie bin system. Details are available on the recycling part of this website.
  • The Cleansing Section will collect bulky items of household refuse subject to certain conditions. Contact 01059 634563 for more information
  • Where very large amounts of waste from the garden or house clearance are involved it is worth hiring a skip from a private contractor. See yellow pages for contractors

Be Considerate!

Should you decide to have a bonfire, kindly note these recommendations:

  • Ideally the clippings should be left to dry for a couple of weeks under a loose cover which will shed the worst of any rain
  • DO NOT burn any oily rags, rubber, plastics, damp garden waste or other materials that would inevitably create heavy smoke or toxic fumes
  • Never light a bonfire when your neighbours have washing drying, or are out enjoying their gardens or have windows wide open
  • Advise your nearest neighbours before you light a bonfire so they can be prepared for any minor inconvenience that may arise
  • Choose the time of day and weather conditions that will cause the least inconvenience to neighbours. Generally bonfires should not be lit one hour from dusk
  • Burn material quickly in small quantities so the minimum amount of smoke is created. An incinerator makes this much easier and these can be bought at most garden centres and hardware shops


  • Choose your bonfire site carefully, well away from trees, fences and windows. Don't automatically locate fires at the bottom of your garden. This often means that they are furthest from your house and very near your neighbours - a sure fire way of annoying them
  • Beware of attempting bonfires on very windy days as they can so easily get out of control. Have a hose-pipe and buckets of water handy just in case
  • Never leave your fire to smoulder for long periods. Never leave a fire unattended. Hose it down until cold before you leave
  • The ashes, when cold, can be raked into the soil as a useful fertiliser. Small pieces of charcoal can be included, but larger pieces should be picked out first

Civic Amenity Sites in Charnwood

  • The Hathern Road site in Shepshed is on the Shepshed to Hathern road just beyond where it goes underneath the M1
  • Granite Way, Mountsorrel.
  • The third site in the Borough is at Railway Terrace in Loughborough which is near the railway station. This site accepts green waste but it does not get recycled

Information about all of these sites is available from Leicestershire County Council's Recycling & Waste Management Section, Tel 0116 305 0001 and on their website

What to Do if You Are Bothered by a Neighbours Bonfire?

First of all tell them about it. In three quarters of cases one neighbour does not know that they are causing problems for another. Often they are too intent on keeping the fire going to notice the effect it is having!

If you are really annoyed then calm down before approaching your neighbour or writing them a letter. You will be much better able to explain your grievance in a reasonable way and so you are much more likely to get a positive response. Try using our advice leaflet on Bonfire and Smoke Nuisance.

If this doesn't work then contact us and we will try to help using our powers under the Environmental Protection Act. We will write to your neighbour explaining the law and steps they can take to avoid needing to burn. We will also ask you to keep a diary which will record dates and times of your neighbours fires and how they are affecting you - this is crucial information as it will allow us to establish if the circumstances are sufficiently serious to possibly be a statutory nuisance. It is also useful to get photographs or video footage of how smoke or ash is affecting you and your property.

Garden Bonfire Fact Sheet (PDF Document, 0.21 Mb)

For further information about statutory nuisances or to make a complaint contact us on 01509 634636 or email us at

Commercial and Construction Site Fires

Unlike domestic properties, all trade and industrial sites (including construction sites) have tighter laws relating to what they are allowed to burn.
The law of nuisance applies to these sites as well as to domestic properties. However they are also subject to the laws of the Clean Air Act and waste management regulations.

Any trade or industrial fire that creates black smoke by burning rubber, plastics or similar materials is committing an offence. Please call us immediately and we will try to get out to the problem as soon as we can. The emissions that are given off by these sorts of fires contain some extremely toxic gases. In a word - DON'T. However if a fire is giving off a lot of thick but white or grey smoke - an offence has not been committed.

Black Smoke


It's toxic ... and illegal

                                               Thick Smoke

                                                         It looks bad but if it isn't causing a nuisance to anyone it's legal

"Dangerous Heaps" and Fire Damage

In many cases the burning of waste that has been produced by a business is now outlawed by waste management laws. This is because the way in which waste is now handled and disposed of is much more closely controlled. If you are concerned that a business site is disposing of its waste by burning it, but it is not causing you a nuisance or creating black smoke then the Environment Agency will need to know because they enforce the law about how waste is disposed of.

Some crucial exceptions to this include;

  • Burning of wood or other vegetation on a site being demolished
  • Burning of wood or other vegetation on certain prescribed sites such as sports grounds, forests & woodlands and railway land
  • Agricultural waste (such as stable waste or straw)

The Environment Agency can provide more information
Tel 0800 807060

Return to the Environmental Protection homepage

Last updated: Thu 3rd April, 2014 @ 15:33

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