There are no laws against having a bonfire, but there are laws for the nuisance they can cause. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 legislation states a statutory nuisance includes “smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. To be considered a nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a persistent problem, interfering unreasonably with your wellbeing, comfort or enjoyment of your property.
Problems with bonfires
Bonfires can be a quick and convenient way to dispose of unwanted waste however bonfires can also cause many problems including:
- Nuisance/annoyance. Smoke from bonfires could prevent nearby residents from enjoying their gardens, opening their windows and hanging out their washing. The smoke also reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and roads
- Air Pollution. Burning garden waste produces smoke - especially if that waste is green or damp. This will emit pollutants including particles and dioxins. Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials creates a range of noxious fumes
- Effects on health. Serious harm is unlikely if exposure to bonfire smoke is brief, but smoke can increase risks to asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, and people with heart conditions, children and the elderly
- Safety. Fire can spread to fences or buildings and scorch trees and plants. Exploding bottles and pressurised cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned. Piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge by animals, so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets
- Dark smoke. It is an offence for a business to burn any material that will give rise to dark smoke. Burning material such as plastics, rubber or paint on a bonfire is therefore illegal
IMPORTANT: Any smoke that impedes visibility on a highway needs to be reported to the Police. If a bonfire is out of control or built in a dangerous location, contact the Fire Service immediately.
Alternatives to bonfires
Bonfires can be a quick and easy way to dispose of unwanted waste however there are other methods available.
How do I complain about nuisance neighbours?
Please contact the Environmental Protection team by using the Neighbourhood and Environmental Reports online form to proceed with an investigation into your complaint, the following information will be required:
- Your name, address and phone number/email address
- The details of the complaint
- The address of the neighbouring property causing the alleged nuisance
The team will not investigate anonymous complaints.
Where possible, to assist the investigation, please supply any photographs/videos/sound recordings of the nuisance you are experiencing (date/time stamped if possible).
Action by Environmental Protection team
After you have made a request for service to Environmental Protection, an officer assigned to your service request will explain the procedure to be followed and will respond by writing or telephone within four working days of receiving your complaint.
We have a standard letter procedure for the initial stages of dealing with nuisance complaints. You will be sent a letter, together with a nuisance record sheet on which you should record any further incidents.
A letter will also be sent to the person you are making the complaint about. This will give the person an opportunity to consider their actions and may well result in the problem you have been experiencing reduced to an acceptable leave. Any details you provide us with will be kept confidential.
If situation improves, you may wish to take no further action. The case officer will keep your request open for 28 days, after which it will normally be closed unless you have contacted us in the meantime.
However if the situation deteriorates you should complete the nuisance record sheet, as these will be needed as evidence, should the case proceed onto a more formal stage. These should then be returned to the case officer as soon as possible to assess if there is a potential statutory nuisance.
If the case officer is suspect nuisance that amounts to a statutory nuisance then the case officer will need to witness the disturbance by way of monitoring visits or by installing noise monitoring equipment in your home to record. At this stage a formal second letter is sent to the person being complaint of.
If having witnessed the problem and officers are satisfied that a statutory nuisance is occurring, an abatement notice will be served on the person responsible for the nuisance. Failure to comply with such a notice is an offence and will usually result in prosecution. At this point it may be necessary for your name and address to be disclosed.
Complaints Made Outside Office Hours
Any enquiries/complaints will be responded to by the team within 4 working days, including those made outside office hours. If you are experiencing an extreme situation, please contact the emergency services by dialling 999.
Environmental Protection Team
Housing and Environmental Enforcement
West Lindsey District Council
Guildhall, Marshall's Yard