Smoke and bonfires

There are no laws on when a resident can have a bonfire at their home. However, domestic or commercial fires must not cause a statutory nuisance.

If you wish to report a smoke or bonfire problem, you must first read the guidance on this page.

Domestic bonfires

We discourage bonfires as they cause air pollution, upset neighbours and can damage health (particularly of children, older people, and those with breathing and heart conditions).

Most waste, including garden waste, can be deposited free of charge at the Townmead Road Re-use and Recycling Centre, or collected for recycling for a small fee.

If you choose to have a bonfire at your home, it is your responsibility to ensure that it does not cause a nuisance to neighbours. The following precautions should be taken:

  1. Notify your neighbours in advance so that you can ensure your bonfire will not interfere with their activities (for example - drying laundry, garden parties, and general use of their garden).
  2. Ensure the bonfire is located as far from your neighbours’ properties as possible, and away from trees, fences and anything which could catch fire.
  3. Burn only dry garden waste, and never other materials such as domestic waste, painted items, plastics, furniture, textiles, or wet garden waste including leaves.
  4. Never use accelerants (for example - petrol) to start your fire.
  5. Do not burn when the smoke will blow into your neighbours’ properties, or on damp, still days when the smoke will hang in the air.
  6. Supervise the fire at all times, and ensure it is totally extinguished at the end.

If you cause a smoke nuisance we can take enforcement action against you. This could lead to a fine of up to £5000 and a criminal record if convicted.

Commercial bonfires and smoke

Waste produced on any construction site or unoccupied residential property, should be removed by skip or vehicle by a licensed waste carrier.

If this is not possible, only untreated organic waste can be disposed of on a controlled fire. This must remain supervised at all times.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires that all businesses must dispose of their controlled waste in a way that does not cause environmental pollution or harm to human health. A person who commits an offence by causing a nuisance from ash or smoke, may be liable to a maximum penalty of £20,000 or imprisonment.

It is also an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993 to emit dark or black smoke, which is subject to a £20,000 fine and a criminal record.

Updated: 20 October 2014