Smoke and bonfires

There are no local byelaws or restrictions on when a resident can have a bonfire at their home. However, domestic or commercial fires must not cause a nuisance. If you make a complaint to the Council, you may be asked to keep diary of the nuisance(pdf, 15KB).

Domestic bonfires

The Council discourages 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:

  • Notify your neighbours in advance so that you can ensure your bonfire will not interfere with their activities (e.g. drying laundry, garden parties, general use of their garden).
  • Ensure the bonfire is located as far from your neighbours’ properties as possible, and away from trees, fences etc which could catch fire.
  • Burn only dry garden waste, and never other materials such as domestic waste, painted items, plastics, furniture, textiles, or wet garden waste including leaves.
  • Never use accelerants (e.g. petrol) to start your fire.
  • 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.
  • Supervise the fire at all times, and ensure it is totally extinguished at the end.

If you cause a smoke nuisance, the Council can take enforcement action against you, leading to fines of up to £5000 and a criminal record if convicted.

Commercial bonfires / smoke

Waste produced on any construction site or unoccupied residential property should be removed by skip or vehicle through a Licensed Waste Carrier. In circumstances where this is cannot take place, untreated organic waste can only be disposed of on controlled fires to prevent smoke or ash nuisance and 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.

In addition to the above offences it is also an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993 to emit dark or black smoke, subject to a £20,000 fine and a criminal record.

Updated: 21 March 2014