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 and the team will respond to your enquiry or complaint within 4 working days. 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
Note: The EPA 1990 legislation does not allow anonymous complaints to be investigated as statutory nuisance.
Your complaint will be logged and you will be sent a covering letter and a monitoring form to log the dates/times/duration of incidents to provide evidence of a possible statutory nuisance. This initial information is important as it forms the foundation of the investigation, justifying the investigation and allowing it to move the next level where the alleged perpetrator is contacted.
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.
West Lindsey District Council
Guildhall, Marshall's Yard