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Nuisance bonfires

Bonfires create air pollution. They can pose a risk to health and cause nuisance to neighbours.

It is not against the law to have occasional garden bonfires but these should be limited to burning dry garden waste and not for the disposal of general household waste.

Any kind of bonfire will harm the environment so you should consider these alternatives:

Nuisance smoke from domestic bonfires

  • If your garden bonfire is causing too much smoke, or you are having too many bonfires, you may be approached by the Environmental Health Service and asked to put out your bonfire, and/or to reduce their frequency.
  • If you don’t comply with requests to prevent smoke nuisance you could be served with an ‘Abatement Notice’. This is a legal notice which means you must stop or you could be prosecuted.
  • Failure to comply with a nuisance abatement notice could result in a fine.

To minimise smoke nuisance you should:

  • consult neighbours and give them time to shut windows and bring washing inside
  • avoid bonfires during windy or wet conditions, or at times when neighbours are more likely to be enjoying their garden
  • make sure that only dry garden waste is burnt
  • never burn plastics, painted materials, plywood and chipboard as they can give off poisonous chemicals - some of which may cause cancer
  • never use petrol, methylated spirits or similar to light the fire
  • never leave the fire unattended.

If you feel your neighbour is having too many bonfires or they are becoming a nuisance the best way to approach this is to have a friendly chat and let them know that their bonfires are affecting you. If this doesn’t solve the problem then you can report it to the council. The Environmental Health Service will investigate and you may be asked to keep a record of the burning to help their investigation. 

There is a helpful guidance leaflet from Defra on outdoor burning activities (PDF) which may be useful to read, it explains how you can best reduce air pollution when burning outdoors and prevent wildfires.

Burning of commercial or trade waste

This is not allowed on any site (including domestic premises) without permission from the Environment Agency. Businesses have a legal obligation to dispose of waste in a proper manner and may be prosecuted if they don’t. In most cases trade waste cannot be moved from one site to another (including to your home) without a waste carrier licence issued by the Environment Agency. A tradesperson cannot burn any waste on your property even if that waste has arisen from works taking place there.

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