Bonfires and the Law

Where a neighbour is causing a problem by burning rubbish there are legal powers to deal with it. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, a statutory nuisance includes “smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. In practice, to be considered a statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a persistent problem, interfering substantially with your well-being, comfort or enjoyment of your property.

Report a bonfire problem 

If bothered by smoke, approach your neighbour and explain the problem. They may not be aware of the distress they are causing. 

If this fails, please contact us to report a problem.

Under the Highways Act 1980, anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine if it endangers traffic. The Police are the enforcing authority in relation to this.

Bonfire guidelines

  • only burn dry material
  • never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing   plastic, foam or paint
  • never use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire or to encourage it
  • avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs on the air on damp, still days and in the evening.  If it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbours’ gardens and across roads
  • avoid burning at weekends and bank holidays when people want to enjoy their gardens
  • avoid burning when air pollution in your area is high or very high.  This information is included in weather forecasts, or you can check by ringing 0800 556677
  • never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - douse it with water if necessary

Smoke control areas

Many users of solid fuel live in Smoke Control Areas (SCA) and therefore have to comply with the Clean Air Act.  As it is an offence to cause smoke from a chimney in a SCA, you should make sure that you use an authorised smokeless fuel (24kb, PDF). Ordinary bituminous coal and wood are not authorised fuels.  It is an offence for any person or company to obtain or deliver unauthorised fuels to a building within a SCA, unless the appliance in use is exempt.

There are open grate fires, glass fronted room heaters, cookers and boilers which are tested and approved to burn specific authorised fuels, and information on all these appliances can be obtained from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).