It's not against the law to have a bonfire in your garden, but it can cause problems depending on what is burned, how often it happens and how much smoke it generates. Environmental Health deals with complaints about bonfires on neighbours' property.
Why have a bonfire?
Avoid it if you can. It's better for you, your neighbours and the environment. See Household Recycling and Waste for advice on the services available from the council to help you manage your waste and how to make best use of them.
There are restrictions on having bonfires:
When to have a bonfire?
There are no set times when you can or can't have a bonfire. You should avoid burning once it gets dark as you may attract the attentions of the Fire Service. You should also avoid burning when people have washing out to dry or are likely to be disturbed by a fire.
What can you burn?
You should restrict the waste you burn to dry (not green) garden waste and clean untreated timber.
Never burn household rubbish, furniture, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam, paint, glue or preservative. Burning these items creates noxious fumes that give off a range of poisonous compounds.
It is wise to keep the fire away from trees, fences and buildings. Never apply petrol, as the invisible fumes around the petrol catch fire explosively.
As well as having the potential to annoy neighbours bonfires contribute to air pollution and can adversely affect health, it is best not to burn bonfires if possible.
While it is common to burn garden waste on an occasional bonfire, regular fires which cause smoke nuisance for neighbours can be viewed as a statutory nuisance. You are less likely to cause a nuisance when the wind direction is blowing away from neighbouring properties.
The statutory nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 allow the Council to serve a notice on a person causing a nuisance to neighbours from bonfires. For more information on how nuisance is assessed see our page on Statutory Nuisance.
Construction of unauthorised bonfires on council or vacant land should be reported to the Environmental Education/Enforcement Officers.
Advice for animal owners can be found on the Animal Welfare Bonfire Night - advice for dog owners page.
Levels of fine particulates in urban areas rise greatly on Bonfire Night. Increased particulate levels can trigger existing respiratory (breathing) conditions such as asthma. For more information, see Article on elevated air pollutants on Bonfire Night. If you already have a respiratory condition, you may wish to sign up for the Air Quality 'Know and Respond' Service, which gives warnings when air pollutant levels are expected to be higher. Whilst it can't give information on a town by town basis, it gives users up to date information on air quality to allow them to make informed choices.