- Can I have a bonfire?
- How to prevent bonfire smoke nuisance
- Can I burn the waste associated with my place of work?
- How do I dispose of waste that I would usually burn?
- I am being bothered by bonfire smoke
- What we will do
- Taking your own action
- Contact the team
Bonfires are often used to get rid of garden waste. This can lead to smoke and fumes which may cause problems for those living and/or working close by. Smoke can interfere with a neighbour's enjoyment of their garden; put them off opening windows and hanging out washing.
If you find a bonfire being built in an obviously dangerous location please make the Fire Service aware of this. Bonfires that are clearly out of control should be immediately reported to the Fire Service on 999.
Can I have a bonfire?
There are no restrictions preventing bonfires upon private residential property as long as they do not cause nuisance to other people and the smoke does not affect highways.
How to Prevent Bonfire Smoke Nuisance
- Let your nearest neighbours know before you light your bonfire
- Burn material in small amounts
- Consider using an incinerator rather than an open bonfire
- Choose the location of your bonfire carefully and have a spade, fork or hose pipe ready in case you need to extinguish the bonfire quickly
- Be aware that other residents may also have regular bonfires. Although you may only have one a month, if each resident did this, it could result in a bonfire every day, which could be unreasonable. Therefore it’s important to communicate with your neighbours
- Use alternative methods, recycle other items, use the local household waste recycling centres
- Consider shredding instead of burning as a suitable safeguard against identity fraud
- Only have a bonfire as a last resort; reuse, recycle, and then dispose of
- DO NOT burn damp grass cuttings or other damp garden waste as this will produce thick smoke.
- DO NOT burn oily rags, rubber, plastics, foam, car tyres etc as these will give rise to black toxic smoke
- DO NOT light a bonfire when neighbours have hung out their washing or are enjoying their gardens. Be considerate.
- DO NOT light a bonfire if the wind is blowing in the direction of your nearest neighbour. Only light a bonfire if the wind is blowing away from your neighbours.
- DO NOT leave a bonfire unattended. Never leave a bonfire once it is alight.
- DO NOT start a bonfire one hour before dusk.
- DO NOT allow your bonfire to smoulder for long periods of time, especially overnight. Ensure that you rake over the ashes to ensure the bonfire is extinguished.
Can I burn the waste associated with my place of work?
There are some exemptions but, in general, commercial businesses including builders are not permitted to burn waste and are expected to adhere to strict government legislation regarding waste disposal. If you see a commercial business burning waste please contact Environmental Protection as detailed below.
How do I dispose of waste that I would usually burn?
These days it is not necessary to burn waste. Most areas in the district now have kerb side collection for both garden waste and recyclables; details can be found via the Waste Services Department. If you are a keen gardener composting is a good alternative to burning. If none of these options are suitable you will find that the Wigan Council Household Recycling Centres (Tips), will accept most waste items and recycle it.
Further information and guidance on bonfires is obtainable by contacting the Environmental Protection Team on 01942 489626.
I am being bothered by bonfire smoke
If you are bothered by smoke from a bonfire, firstly approach your neighbour and explain the problem. If this fails you can make a complaint to the Environmental Protection Team on the contact details at the bottom of this page.
When making your complaint you must include: -
- Your name, address and if possible a contact telephone number;
- The address complained of and the type of nuisance;
- When and for how long the problem normally occurs; and
- The way the nuisance affects you.
- Anonymous complaints will not be investigated.
What We Will Do
We will take your complaint and investigate. The nature of your complaint will be discussed and you will be informed how we will deal with your complaint. You must remember that your complaint will not be resolved overnight, investigations can take several weeks.
Please note: Your name and address will NOT be disclosed to the person complained of, however, occasionally the person may guess who has complained or may approach you to ask if you have made a complaint. Also if we decide to take legal action, you may be asked to appear in Court as a witness.
A letter will also be sent to you acknowledging receipt of your complaint and including a log sheet. You will be asked to keep a record of when the nuisance occurs for a number of entries after which time the completed log sheet should be returned. There are three reasons for this:
- To help us assess whether the dust or odour is likely to amount to a statutory nuisance;
- To indicate the times when an officer is more likely to witness the nuisance, and;
- With your consent the log sheet may be used as evidence should formal action prove necessary.
If the completed log sheet is not returned within 28 days it will be assumed that the matter has been resolved to your satisfaction and no further action will be taken.
Upon receipt of your completed log sheet(s) the Officer dealing with the complaint will send a letter to the person you allege to be causing the nuisance advising them of your complaint to try and attempt a quick informal resolution to any problems that may exist. If this doesn’t resolve your problem then officers may visit your property on up to three occassions to try and witness the nuisance.
If the Council has evidence that the smoke, odour or dust is a statutory nuisance then an Abatement Notice will be served on the person causing the nuisance. If the statutory nuisance continues, then the Council can prosecute the alleged offender, who may be fined up to £5,000 upon conviction for a domestic dwelling and up to £20,000 for commercial premises.
There are some occasions where we are unable to take formal action, either because the nuisance occurs intermittently or a statutory nuisance cannot be substantiated. If we decide that formal action cannot be taken, you will be advised accordingly.
Taking Your Own Action
In some cases Public Health may not be able to take formal action, as we have either been unable to witness the nuisance or do not consider it to be a statutory nuisance.
If you, nevertheless, wish to pursue your nuisance complaint, there are two alternative options:
Taking action yourself in a Magistrates Court under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 :(external link). You will need to contact your local court to ask how to proceed but it is a good idea to write to the person causing the problem saying that unless the nuisance is stopped by a certain date you will be complaining to the Magistrates Court. Make sure any letter is dated and signed and keep an accurate copy. This may be enough to solve the problem or at least get it properly considered.
Taking action yourself for a 'private nuisance', which involves your local County Court. This is a method which is best adopted after consulting a solicitor and relies on you proving on the balance of probabilities that your right to reasonable enjoyment of your property has been seriously affected.
Prior to taking any action you are advised to consult a solicitor. Remember that opposing arguments raised by the defence will have to be faced in court. Very often it is found that relations between neighbours are strained and that the nuisance complaint is just part of a greater and sometimes complicated dispute. One thing you must do is be quite certain of the grounds of your complaint and be sure you are not overreacting to a situation which many people would find acceptable.