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Smoke and bonfires

Report a nuisance complaint

Section 79(1) of the Environmental Protection Act requires the local authority to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to investigate complaints that relate to:

  • Smoke emissions
  • Bonfires

Every year the Environmental Health Division receive a large amount of complaints about bonfires causing a repeated nuisance. Such nuisances need never arise if due consideration is shown to our neighbours. This information explains the law and gives some suggestions to help prevent a nuisance being caused.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows the Local Authority to take offenders to court should their bonfires cause a nuisance to neighbours (for example, have an unreasonable effect on their enjoyment of their home or garden). Moreover any bonfire on trade premises which causes dark smoke is an offence regardless of whether anybody else is affected (section 2, 1993 Clean Air Act). The fines could be up to £20,000 for each offence. Persons complaining to the Council will likely be asked to keep a diary of events to assist officers investigating the matter.

Should you decide to have a bonfire, kindly note these recommendations:

  • do not burn damp grass clippings or 'green' material as this creates thick smoke
  • do not burn any oily rags, rubber, plastics, damp garden waste or other materials which would inevitably create heavy smoke or toxic fumes
  • do not burn a bonfire when your neighbours have washing drying, or are out enjoying their gardens or have windows wide open
  • do not light bonfires one hour before dusk, or leave them burning overnight. Choose the time of day and weather conditions that will cause the least inconvenience to neighbours
  • do not leave your fire to smoulder for long periods
  • do advise your nearest neighbours before you light a bonfire so they can be prepared for any minor inconvenience that may arise
  • do burn material quickly in small quantities so the minimum amount of smoke is created. An incinerator makes this much easier
  • do choose your bonfire site carefully, well away from trees, fences and windows. Have a hose-pipe and buckets of water handy just in case

If you would like to raise a complaint regarding smoke and bonfires, please email us on or call us on 01954 713 000.

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