Bonfires - guidelines

Smoke from bonfires causes severe distress to sufferers of respiratory and other diseases, and can be a nuisance to neighbours drying laundry outside or enjoying their gardens.

There are no laws against having a bonfire, but there are laws for the nuisance they can cause if prejudicial to health or a nuisance to the neighbourhood. Offenders can be fined £5,000 (£20,000 for industrial, trade or business premises).

The council can take offenders to court if their bonfires cause a nuisance to neighbours, including having an unreasonable effect on their enjoyment of their home or garden. Action can also be taken if a bonfire on trade premises causes dark smoke. This is an offence under section two of the Clean Air Act, with a fine of up to £20,000.

Before lighting a fire in the open, please observe the following guidelines:

  • check weather conditions and wind direction so that smoke and ash will be carried away from neighbours' windows and gardens, and make sure that there is no laundry hanging in adjoining gardens
  • only burn dry, natural and untreated materials
  • compost or bury soft vegetable waste and grass cuttings
  • do not burn oily rags, rubber and other materials
  • do not leave your fire unattended or smouldering for long periods, and hose it down until the bonfire is cold before you leave it
  • advise neighbours before you light a bonfire
  • burn material quickly in small quantities so that a minimum of smoke is created
  • site your bonfire well away from trees, fences and windows, avoid windy days, and have a hosepipe or buckets of water ready nearby
  • rake ashes into the soil when cold, picking out larger pieces of charcoal first

Report a nuisance from a bonfire