There is no law restricting times when you can have a domestic garden bonfire, but it is important to consider your neighbours and other local residents if you are intending to have one.

The Council can take action where smoke from bonfires is causing a statutory nuisance and 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.

Just because you can see a garden bonfire or smell smoke does not make it a nuisance - to be a nuisance it must be unreasonably affecting your use or enjoyment of your property. Issues that can play a part in deciding whether it is a nuisance include the size of the fire, the materials being burnt, the weather and the smell.

If the Council is satisfied there is a nuisance, then a legal notice will be served to prevent any further nuisances. If nuisances continue and are proved beyond all reasonable doubt then the person responsible may be prosecuted in a Magistrates' Court and fined up to £5,000.

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:

Please do

  • 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
  • If your neighbours do complain, rake off any unburnt material if safe to do so and smother the fire with soil or sand. Dousing with water can make the problem worse due to the amount of steam that is produced.
  • Avoid burning when air pollution in your area is high or very high. This information is included in weather forecasts or on the UK Air Quality Archive website

Please don't

  • Have many bonfires – neighbours are more likely to complain if you often have bonfires
  • Burn the following: household rubbish, painted wood, rubber, oil, green garden waste, animal bedding, plastic, tyres, foam or soft furnishings - these can produce potentially toxic dark smoke which is unacceptable and might be an offence.
  • Light a fire if neighbours have washing out or windows open
  • 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 on damp, still days or during foggy conditions – as smoke will linger in the air for long periods of time and will not be able to disperse
  • Allow bonfire smoke to blow over a road - this is an offence under the Highways Act 1980.

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 Protection Team by filling in an online form.

Last updated: Mon 8th November, 2021 @ 15:37