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.
Most people from time to time will be troubled by smoke or odour from bonfires and our pollution team is happy to give advice or if required, investigate any complaints they receive, in relation to this problem.
The Council does not have a 24 hour call out service for responding to Statutory Nuisance complaints. Should you be affected by a nuisance bonfire outside of office hours they should be reported to Environmental Health the next working day, please note the Councils emergency phone line is not to be used in these cases. Breach of the peace, violence/fights and/or Anti Social Behaviour should be reported to the Police.
How would a bonfire constitute a nuisance
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:
- the frequency of the bonfires
- the effect on neighbours, for example the intensity of the smoke and the smell
- the nature of the bonfire, including material burnt
- location in relation to nearby premises
- weather conditions including wind direction
- the extent to which the use and enjoyment of neighbouring properties are affected.
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:
- Inform your neighbours as a matter of courtesy, in case they have washing out or windows open;
- Do not burn any general household rubbish, plastics, rubber, painted wood or any foam etc;
- Ensure that the weather conditions are favourable;
- Try not to burn if the smoke is likely to hang around at ground level, such as damp, still days or in the evening;
- Do not allow the fire to continue to smoulder for a long period of time;
- Always stay with the fire so that if the smoke etc becomes a problem then you can put it out;
- Do not use anything to encourage the fire to start, such as oil, petrol, diesel etc.
- Ensure that the material is dry before burning.
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.
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 1993
Under 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.
Statutory Nuisance - Environmental Protection Act 1990
If 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’.
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.
What is our complaint procedure when dealing with bonfires?
Download the Smoke Related Complaints leaflet for details our complaints procedure.
Submit a complaint
Having read the complaint leaflet above, if you feel the problem has the potential to cause a Statutory Nuisance, please complete the complaint form or contact the Pollution Team.