There are no specific laws which prohibit bonfires. However, bonfires can often lead to smoke, fumes and ash which may cause problems for those living or working close by, as well as the environment, which can be deemed a statutory nuisance.
Smoke, fumes and ash can interfere with a neighbour's use of their property, preventing them from enjoying their garden and putting them off opening windows or hanging out washing.
If you find a bonfire being built in an obviously dangerous location or if a bonfire is clearly out of control, report it immediately to the Fire Service on 999.
Can I have a bonfire?
There are no restrictions preventing bonfires upon a private residential property as long as they do not cause a nuisance to other people and the smoke does not affect the public highway.
If a bonfire begins to cause a nuisance this could result in a statutory nuisance investigation in line with the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
How to prevent bonfire smoke nuisance
- Only have a bonfire as a last resort. Reuse, recycle, and then dispose of it
- Let your nearest neighbours know before you light your bonfire
- Only burn material in small amounts, and for a short period.
- Consider using an incinerator rather than an open bonfire, where possible
- 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 so it’s important to talk with your neighbours
- Use alternative methods, recycle other items, use the local household waste recycling centres, where possible
- Consider shredding instead of burning as a suitable safeguard against identity fraud
- If you are a keen gardener composting is a good alternative to burning.
- 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 kind. 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.
What if a bonfire is causing a nuisance?
If smoke from a bonfire is affecting you, firstly discuss the issue with the person(s) responsible. If this does not resolve the issue, report the matter to us.
Can I burn waste from my business?
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.