Smoke nuisance

Reporting a smoke nuisance

Smoke from bonfires could prevent nearby residents from enjoying their gardens, opening their windows and hanging out their washing. But please note there are no laws against having a bonfire. 

If you are bothered by persistent bonfires that interfere substantially with your wellbeing, enjoyment and comfort of your property, you can report it to us using the online smoke nuisance form. The better the information you give us the more likely we’ll be able to take action on your behalf.

Important: Any smoke that impedes visibility on a highway needs to be reported to the Police. If a bonfire is out of control or built in a dangerous location, contact the Fire Service immediately.

Before making a complaint, we suggest approaching your neighbour first, as they may be genuinely unaware that their actions are affecting you.  If you do contact your neighbour, you may want to reference the information presented here about noise and amend as necessary. However, if you feel that approaching a neighbour is not appropriate, please ensure that you have established where the bonfire is before you make a complaint.

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Investigating a smoke complaint

Before making a complaint we suggest approaching your neighbour first, as they may be genuinely unaware that their actions are affecting you. 

However, if you feel that approaching a neighbour is not appropriate, please ensure that you have established where the bonfire is before you make a complaint. 

Please remember that there are no laws against having a bonfire. 

It may be possible, however, for us to take action if it can be shown that the bonfire is a persistent problem and is interfering unreasonably with your wellbeing, comfort or enjoyment of your property. 


Step 1


Details of the complaint will be taken. Please make sure you know the source of the smoke as we need to write to them. We don’t need their names though. We cannot investigate anonymous complaints - we need to prove that the smoke is unduly affecting someone, so someone needs to be prepared to detail to us how they are being affected. We don’t give out names or details about who has made the complaint (but sometimes it can be guessed!).

You’ll be asked about the smoke, when it is happening, and how long it goes on for.

Step 2


We will send out diary sheets for you to make a record of the smoke. Please see the guidance on completing these. More diaries can be downloaded if required. This record helps the Council decide if the issue is likely to be considered a statutory nuisance and may also be used as evidence in Court at a later date. We also use the information provided to plan the next step of the investigation. If you are unable to keep these diaries, let us know and we will assist you in recording the information in another way.

Once we have received your diary sheets and reviewed the evidence, will write to the subject of the smoke complaint to let them know that we have received a complaint. We will ask them to take whatever action they think is appropriate so that we don’t get any further complaints. The subject often contacts us when they receive this letter – the more information we can provide them the better. We don’t tell them who made the complaint. If we can resolve the matter informally at this stage, all the better.


Step 3


A diary is vital for us to progress the investigation. If you do not return the diary, no further action will be taken on your complaint.

We then need to substantiate what is in the diary. This is so when we take formal action we can justify it, if necessary, in court because we have witnessed it for ourselves.

  • We will review the information provided – if no Statutory Nuisance action is available we will advise you of this and other options available.
  • If the forms show a pattern to the disturbance we may arrange to visit at times when the disturbance is likely to be happening.


What happens if the problem is considered a statutory nuisance?


If the investigating officer believes that there is sufficient evidence of statutory nuisance, and the matter cannot be resolved informally, immediately and completely, the persons responsible for the smoke will be served with an Abatement Notice under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. 

If the person being complained about does not agree with the Notice and appeals or does not comply with the requirements of the Notice, the complainant and other witnesses may be required to give evidence in Court.

Should the offender(s) persist in contravening the Abatement Notice, the council may be entitled to execute work ‘in default’ and require the offender to pay all costs to do this. This is basically the Local Authority taking steps themselves to stop the nuisance.

The council can also prosecute the offender for contravening the requirements of the Abatement Notice. These cases are usually heard in the magistrates court. If the offender is found guilty then a fine of up to £5,000 per offence may be imposed by the court (£20,000 in the case of a trade or businesses, or on indictment an unlimited fine or even imprisonment).

What problems can bonfires cause?

Bonfires can be problematic because they can:

  • Produce harmful poisonous gasses such as carbon monoxide.
  • Add to the background level of air pollution.
  • Spread fires onto fences or buildings, scorching trees and plants.
  • Harm animals; piles of waste are often used by animals for shelter.

Alternatives to bonfires

There are other ways of getting rid of waste without burning:

  • Compost garden and kitchen waste.
  • Domestic waste can be taken to various Council refuse sites.
  • Recycle your waste.
  • Shredding; shredders for woody waste can be bought or hired.

Advice on having a bonfire

If you would like to have a bonfire:

  • Use dry material only.
  • Avoid burning at weekends and bank holidays.
  • Don’t burn tyres, cables, plastics, rubber, painted products or household waste.
  • Don’t leave a fire unattended, even when it’s just smouldering.
  • Warn neighbours that you are going to have a bonfire.
  • Don't be a nuisance; the smoke, particulates and smells they create can ruin residents’ enjoyment of their property, preventing them from opening windows, using their garden, etc.