Garden Bonfires and the Law
Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp or green material is being burnt. Smoke from garden bonfires can prevent neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out. The smoke, smuts and smell from bonfires are the subject of many complaints.
It is a common misconception that there are specific laws that only permit bonfires at certain times or on specific days or that they are prohibited altogether. This is not the case and such controls do not exist. An outright ban would be difficult to enforce and occasionally a bonfire is the best practicable way to deal with some garden wastes.
However, the law does not permit anyone to create a nuisance by emitting either smoke or fumes from such a fire.
For smoke or fume emissions to be considered a statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a persistent problem which interfered substantially with someone's well-being, comfort or enjoyment of their property. If a fire is only an occasional event it is unlikely to be considered a nuisance in law. Similarly if bonfires are being lit by different neighbours, each burning occasionally it would be difficult to support an action for nuisance.
Under the Highways Act 1980 anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road may be fined if it endangers traffic. This legislation is enforced by the police.
Making a Complaint
If you contact us about smoke or fumes from bonfires we may ask you to complete a 'smoke diary' to record when the fires are being held and how the smoke or fumes are affecting you. We need this information to identify if the bonfire may be causing a 'nuisance' in law and we cannot take action on anyonymous complaints. If appropriate the alleged offender will be approached and given advice on the provisions of the law. If this does not resolve the problem, formal action may be taken. Information can also be found in our Garden bonfire leaflet.
Industrial and commercial bonfires
Dark smoke emissions from bonfires on industrial or trade premises are prohibited, except in a few limited special circumstances. 'Dark' smoke is a specific shade of grey defined in Clean Air legislation. It is also a specific offence to remove the insulation from wire and cable by burning it. Information can also be found in our Commercial bonfire leaflet.
If you need further information or help please contact Environmental Health
on 0115 9072244 extension 3820 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org