Bonfires and smoke

A bonfire can be a convenient way to dispose of excess garden waste but it is important to be aware of the impact on your neighbours and the environment.

There is no law against having a bonfire, though it is an offence for the smoke, smell and ash to cause a nuisance.

If you must have a bonfire, we recommend you take into account the following:

  • Consider alternatives to a bonfire such as composting your garden waste.

  • Position your bonfire as far away from buildings as possible.

  • Do not light a fire if the wind will carry the smoke over roads or into your neighbours' gardens or property.

  • Burn only dry wood and plant waste. Avoid burning material that will create toxic fumes, for example, plastic, rubber or aerosols.

  • Never leave a fire to smoulder, put it out with water or soil.

  • Remember that smoke hangs in the air on damp, windless days and in the evening.

Report a bonfire

If you are being disturbed by bonfire smoke and ash, try politely discussing the issue with your neighbour. They may not realise they are causing a problem.

If the situation does not improve, you can report a bonfire using our online form.

In order for us to take action, the bonfire must class as a statutory nuisance. This means the bonfire you wish to report must be more than an annoyance, and affecting you in an unreasonable and significant way.

Factors considered when assessing statutory nuisance include:

  • duration and frequency of the bonfire

  • time of day

  • amount of smoke coming from the bonfire

  • your location.

Investigating your bonfire complaint

  • You will need to keep a record of dates, times and how the bonfire is affecting you.

  • An officer will assess your bonfire record information and may arrange to visit in order to witness the bonfire disturbance.

  • If the bonfire classes as a statutory nuisance, the officer will issue an abatement notice. This does not necessarily mean stop but may instead mean reduce.

  • If the bonfire nuisance continues and evidence is sufficient, we may take the offender to court for not complying with the abatement notice.

  • You may also be able to undertake your own private legal action.