Smoke nuisance

If you are experiencing a smoke nuisance you can report it to us using the online smoke nuisance form.

Report a smoke nuisance

Bonfires can be a nuisance - the smoke, smuts and smells they cause can ruin residents’ enjoyment of their property, preventing them from opening windows, hanging washing out and can prevent them enjoying being in their own garden.

Burning waste may produce the poisonous gas carbon monoxide as well as other toxic compounds. Many of these compounds can have damaging health effects, particularly in susceptible people - such as children, asthmatics, and those with heart and chest problems.

Even if the immediate health risk is small, your bonfire will add to the background level of air pollution. Weather conditions can make matters worse. If the air is still, particularly in the late afternoon or evening, smoke will linger in the air. On the other hand, if it is too windy, smoke may blow into neighbouring properties causing nuisance or across roads causing danger.

Don't forget that bonfires can be dangerous from a safety point of view - spreading fire to fences or buildings, scorching trees and plants. Piled rubbish for bonfires is often used as a refuge by animals - look out for hibernating hedgehogs and sleeping pets.

What you can do

Instead of having a bonfire, there are other, far less environmentally damaging methods of disposal.

  • Composting - most garden and kitchen waste can be recycled into compost which will produce a useful soil conditioner, saving you money on commercial products. If you are unable to compost at home, you can take your garden waste to the Household Waste Recycling Centres throughout the District. In addition to being able to deposit recyclable materials, residents can take any other household waste, free of charge, for safe and responsible disposal.
  • Shredding - woody waste can be shredded to make it suitable for composting or mulching; you can buy or hire shredders, but remember, they can be noisy - don't replace one nuisance with another!

If done carefully, the occasional bonfire or barbecue should not cause a major problem, so an outright ban on bonfires would be unreasonable. However, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is an offence to cause a statutory nuisance, and this can include nuisances created by bonfires.

To be considered a nuisance, the bonfire would have to be a regular problem and interfering substantially with your well-being, comfort or enjoyment of your property. If you are bothered by persistent bonfire smoke, you may wish to approach your neighbours: they may be genuinely unaware that their actions are affecting you.

However, you may feel unable to approach your neighbours, and you must consider your safety if you were to try this method. You should contact the Environmental Health Team and inform them of your concerns. In most cases letters are written to both parties and this is enough to resolve the problem.

Unfortunately, in some cases it does not end there and if the bonfires persist you should inform the officer dealing with your case. You should complete the monitoring form sent to you by the officer, to provide information to allow the officer to establish whether there is the occurrence of a nuisance.

They may wish to visit to assess whether the bonfire is a statutory nuisance. If it is, an abatement notice may be served on your neighbours under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. If the person then fails to comply with the notice, they may be prosecuted which upon conviction in a Magistrates Court gives rise to a maximum fine of £5000.