Bonfires can cause a nuisance to neighbouring properties. Contrary to popular belief there are no time restrictions as to when people can have bonfires. It is accepted that some smoke/odour from bonfires is to be expected and this in itself would not necessarily cause a nuisance. In addition, it is not an offence to light a bonfire in a Smoke Control Area. These areas relate specifically to smoke emission from any kind of chimney. Find out more about Smoke Control Areas by clicking here.
Most people from time to time will be troubled by smoke or odour from bonfires and our Pollution Team are happy to give advice or if required, investigate any complaints they receive, in relation to this problem.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 a 'Statutory Nuisance' includes smoke, fumes or gases emitted from a premise so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
In practice this will mean that if the bonfire affects another property either from smoke, debris, ash or fumes coming into the building or garden, then it could constitute a nuisance.
In determining a Statutory Nuisance the pollution team will consider:
Although we cannot stop people having domestic bonfires, as an Authority we do not recommend them as the best option of disposal, as there are safer and more environmentally friendly ways for disposing of waste.
If you still wish to have a bonfire then, the following guidelines are provided to try and prevent a nuisance being caused:
Further information on how we can get involved can be found in our Advice Leaflet on Smoke Related Complaints. Additionally, please refer to our poster on Bonfires - The Misconceptions
For more details on what a Statutory Nuisance is, please click here. Alternatively, if you wish to make a complaint, please fill in this form, however please be sure to enter 'Pollution' into the department/service box to ensure your request comes straight to us.
In this regard, in addition to the rules for Statutory Nuisance applying, there is also The Clean Air Act 1993 which prohibits dark or black smoke being emitted from a bonfire on trade or industrial premises. The provisions are absolute, subject to specific exceptions for prescribed materials. Failure to comply with the provisions of the Clean Air Act 1993 can result, on conviction, of a penalty of up to a maximum of £20,000.
Q. Can I have bonfires in my garden?There are two common misconceptions regarding domestic bonfires. The first being, a bonfire should only be lit within certain time periods - however, this is not the case. There are no time restrictions set for when a bonfire can take place. The second misconception is that it is an offence to have a bonfire in a smoke control area - this is also not the case, as smokeless zone areas relate specifically to what fuel can be burnt on open chimney fires.The Pollution Team within the Environmental Health Department can only take action if a bonfire is causing a nuisance in terms of smoke and/or odour. A formal complaint can be made under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as a Statutory Nuisance. There are many factors involved in assessing whether a bonfire is causing a Statutory Nuisance, such as frequency of events, extent/impact of the bonfire and whether it materially affects the enjoyment or use of neighbouring properties. There are alternative ways of disposing of your waste, without having to burn, i.e. recycling, taking waste to your local amenity site. However, should you decide that having a bonfire is the best practicable option, you should make sure that a nuisance is not being caused to your neighbours. For further advice on Statutory Nuisance, click here.
Q. What action can be taken if business/commercial/industrial premises are having bonfires?This Department can take action to deal with bonfires from any of the above premises under the legislation detailed below:Clean Air Act 1993Under the Clean Air Act 1993, it is an offence to produce dark/black smoke from any business premise. This Department can prosecute, even after only one incident has been witnessed. Action can even be taken where there is evidence of materials that have already been burnt, which are likely to have caused dark smoke. Substances that would normally give rise to dark smoke are plastics, tyres, carpets, foam etc. For further advice on the Clean Air Act please see the ‘Air Quality’ section (linked from the lefthand column).Statutory Nuisance - Environmental Protection Act 1990If the smoke is not dark, this Department can still deal with the issue as a formal complaint under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as a Statutory Nuisance. We would assess the nuisance as we would a ‘domestic bonfire’. For further advice on Statutory Nuisance, click here.
All business premises have a Duty of Care and this requires that all their waste be collected by a licensed waste carrier and disposed of at a licensed site. The burning of waste produced by business premises can be enforced by the Environment Agency. For further details please contact the Environment Agency directly on 0800 269098.
Please check the links at the left hand side of the page for further information, or click here to return to the Pollution homepage.