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Bonfire Nuisance in Your Neighbourhood

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 Nov 2020 | comments*Discuss
Bonfire Smoke Nuisance Annoyance

If the type of domestic property you live in is suitable, it is perfectly legal to have a bonfire on your land and, contrary to popular belief, there are no restrictions as to what time of the day or day of the week you can have it on. There is, however, firm legislation in place which you must comply with to ensure that your bonfire does not contravene the Environmental Protection Act.

In addition to the legislation, it’s also important that you consider how the bonfire might affect your neighbours. While the law does not restrict you from doing so, it would be highly inconsiderate to light a bonfire in the middle of the night. As a general guideline, don’t light your bonfire any later than one hour before dusk, and if possible do it in the morning or early evening.

Choosing your Site

You need to think carefully about where in your garden you're going to place your bonfire. Not only do you need to consider your neighbours, but any kind of fire can be extremely dangerous if not managed properly. Keep any bonfire well out of the way of windows, trees, fences, hedges and other combustible materials.

Even in the summer months, when there are lots of green leaves around, it’s easy to forget that they are simply light covering for a lot of dry wood and, should an ivy bush catch fire, for example, one that grows along the side of a fence reaching right to your house, it’s amazing how rapidly that can take hold and spread.

Informing your Closest Neighbours

It’s common courtesy to let those neighbours who might be affected by the smoke know when you intend to have the bonfire. Obviously, not everybody has the same day for doing their washing and hanging it out on the line or inviting guests around for a barbecue, but by letting them know in advance, your neighbours can plan washing days and outdoor activities accordingly.

While on the subject of barbecues or using other smoke-causing devices such as a Wood Burning Stove, the same common courtesy rules should apply if you think you are going to cause excessive smoke problems.

General Advice

First, try to have as few bonfires as possible. These days, and with the encouragement to recycle, there is far less need to burn garden rubbish than there may have been a few years ago. Recycling bins are often provided for garden waste and many gardeners will use much of the stuff that they may have previously burned and use it as compost.

Don’t include any wet or green materials on your bonfire as that will just cause excess smoke. For safety purposes and to reduce annoyance potential, it's best to burn a small bonfire and then adding to it as opposed to making one great big bonfire. Keep a hosepipe handy or have buckets of water already prepared in case the fire gets out of control, and never leave a bonfire unattended.

You should not burn anything which is likely to cause excessive and pungent black smoke. For example, rubber tyres and plastic containers do not belong on a bonfire. You should not attempt to light a bonfire when it’s a windy day, as wind will blow the smoke further, causing annoyance to even more of your neighbours.

If a Neighbour’s Bonfire Causes a Problem

If a neighbour is burning a bonfire which is causing a nuisance, you should go round to their house and ask them politely to extinguish it or if they could do anything to reduce its effects. Quite often, they are so engrossed in what they’ve got to burn and get rid of that they can be pretty oblivious to the effects the bonfire is having on nearby residents.

However, if they ignore your request, you can contact your local authority’s environmental health department who will write to the neighbour, and include the relevant legislation about what they can and cannot do. Further legal action can be taken against them if they continue to flout the law. Keeping a written log of dates and times when the problems arise and taking some footage of the effects of a neighbour’s bonfire if you have a camera or, better still, a camcorder, will often help to enable your local authority to prosecute them more quickly if they are breaching the law.

Generally speaking, however, there are far fewer reasons for anybody to be having to burn rubbish on a bonfire in their garden these days. Waste can be often be recycled or disposed of in other ways so, if you are thinking of having a bonfire, consider the neighbours and think of less damaging ways in which you might be able to dispose of certain kinds of waste.

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@Annoyed Neighbour - 2-Aug-20 @ 12:04 AM So would you say that I was being a selfish prick just because I burn a few old tyres occasionally, just to get the bonfire going nicely ?
JuanKingspasm - 20-Nov-20 @ 4:28 PM
I would just like to know who you call on a Sunday when your neighbor crosses the street is burning and it's a dry windy day, you cannot sit on your porch you cannot take your dog outside because it makes you sick and you can't breathe! You certainly can't open your windows! So who do you call on a Sunday morning when The neighbor crossed the street is burning to be all get out on a dry and windy day and we have not had rain and over a week and don't expect to have rain for another week?
Damaris - 8-Nov-20 @ 5:04 PM
Got a pile of garden waste (only twigs/branches as all else goes in the compost or the garden waste bags for Lambeth) built up over a year, and want to burn it on Bonfire night (or nearest sat or sun)......can't find out if Lambeth now allows this.....I also have an incinerator, so it could go in there.... Tried to find a Lambeth number to ring or write, but can't find! help!
pat - 29-Oct-20 @ 2:21 PM
JAC - even we shut windows, the smoke still gets in. If they dont smell, I wouldnt give a dumb.
Hi - 21-Oct-20 @ 3:55 AM
My stupid neighbour called a police against me as I harrased them!! The reality is completely opposit and they are worse than ever since the police visited my house. They are from Portogal and believe they own the whole street! I will take it to the court per an advise from the local council as they cannot do anything further. They have been very helpful though.
Devastated - 20-Oct-20 @ 6:37 PM
My pig ignorant neighbors think it’s cleaver to have bonfires , smashing the dust bin lidevery 30 minuets or so , , shouting all day , washing wheely bins and cutting grass every two days ! Yes really! Both are in their seventiestime for it to stop
Herman - 13-Sep-20 @ 10:35 AM
Why is it inconsiderate to burn late at night? We have a very controlled fire occasionally, designed to quick-burn so it doesn't last any more than 45mins-1hr. We do it late because it's the only time it's guaranteed that our neighbours have closed their windows and doors so the small amount of smoke doesn't affect them.
JAC - 10-Sep-20 @ 10:52 PM
The new neighbour has once again left smouldering a large metal bin of garden rubbish, smoke is creeping out from the lid, it is a metre from the boundary wooden fence, strong smell of smoke particulates in the air. He has been incrementally burning garden waste, but i did see a plastic carton tossed on too. I had a brief word last time (about a week ago) when I saw bright orange flames through gaps in the fence about ‘safety’ but all he said he had a hose nearby and would put it out. Last night’s fire was still gently smouldering at 9am today... This is the fourth or fifth bin fire since July and he has more rubbish to burn.. it is bizarre he does not think to compost it?. All this during a heatwave!, little breeze, v poor air quality - I think he is just clueless about the nuisance to others... Please help.
ZEE - 13-Aug-20 @ 11:35 AM
Honestly I can't begin to describe how inconsiderate it is to burn garden fires. Almost every day one of the neighbours is burning a fire in any direction, what are you, cavemen!? Firstly, it stinks, I can never open my windows to get fresh air. Secondly, burning fires on the hottest days of the year, just why!? If you're burning fires you're a selfish prick, simple as. There's no good reason for it, the council collect large waste and we also have recycle bins.
Annoyed Neighbour - 2-Aug-20 @ 12:04 AM
@ Julie - 18-Jul-20 @ 12:45 PM Number 21 eh ? It's all in hand, no bother at all, your friendly neighbourhood vigilante will immediately deal with this atrocity!
Sornoff Piztakka - 1-Aug-20 @ 3:19 AM
We have had our neighbours 4 doors down calling the fire brigade. But as 2 elderly people who have no transport and currently being shielded due to covid and having no transport to go to the dump. I checked on the council Web site before I did this. We are only burning the old wooden shed and paper items. Anything else we have arranged for Harrow Council to collect it under the bulky waste collection scheme. Our bonfire is contained in a metal incinerator and we have a bucket of water near by to dampen any spillage and we only burn up to 1.oopm.we have lived here 40 years and have never even had a barbecue. I fully understand if we did all the time and we checked with our immediate neighbours and they were OK. But when the fire brigade they flatly refused to listen to our side and told us only to burn during hours of darkness. Surely that isn't right. Just wanted to give our story.
Law abiding citizen - 25-Jul-20 @ 8:07 PM
We have had a bonfire in a metal incineratorin our garden and our neighbours 4 doors down complained and phoned the fire brigade. We only ever lit it in the morning up to 1.00pm.It was contained in a metal bin where we had a bucket of waternear by. Never left it unattended. And when we finished we ensured that all the embers had been dampen and no ashes still burning. When the fire brigade came they told us only burn during darkness and yet is legally no time or day restriction. We had consulted with our immediate neighbours and they were OK. We have lived in our property for 40 and never had a bonfire as we were under the impression that it was against the law. My husband and I are being shielded because of cod I'd so even the dump was open we could not. go. We thought we were doing the right thing as it causing Harrow council thousands of pounds to clear up fly tipping. We don't have a car so we can't take and we only burn wood or paper. SORRY ABOUT THE RANT
Law abiding citizen - 25-Jul-20 @ 7:53 PM
Number 21 stonybeck close, swindon, SN5 7AQ have twice had bonfires in their garden even though you are not supposed to & this one has been going since 12.00, lunchtime. Is there nothing can be done about it? Can they be contacted about the issue.
Julie - 18-Jul-20 @ 12:45 PM
My neighbour has had consistent bonfires in his barbecue. Not one eyelid was battered and sometimes it goes on past midnight. I had one tonight, a one off in an incinerator, just gone past 10.35pm, was gonna let the flames die down and he sprays me with water, says I need to show some respect as its 11pm and calls me a prick. The neighbour next to them is also complaining on Facebook but not one of them has decided to talk to me on fb or in person. Double standards? Hypocritical? Am I really a prick?
TheWrongOne - 15-Jul-20 @ 12:35 AM
We live in Caissie Cape and have neighbors on all sides. We believe In people's right to enjoyment, however, some neighbors have bonfires every night and do not adhere to fire ban rules, they just don't care. Fireworks are shot every night during summer. Year before last neighbor shot fireworks in direction of our house. Burned a hole in our new gazebo canopy. We patched it and did not ask them to replace it but asked them not to shoot the fireworks in our direction. There are cottages and trees all around.. Also debris and half burned cartridges burned a bit of our siding.Fireworks should not be used with so much foliage and properties nearby. People who come to their cottage should be able to enjoy themselves but use common sense and consideration for their neighbors. Fire dept told us that in future if a fire ban is on to phone them and they will come and ensure fires are put out and potentially fine people who don't adhere to rules. Most nights, we cannot sleep with our bedroom window open due to smoke from multiple fires. Don't want to make bad neighbors, however, since they don't care about anybody but themselves, will be calling authorities from this point on. We try to be considerate and are fed up with those who are not!!
Smoked out - 10-Jul-20 @ 6:21 PM
it’s now 11pm the new neighbour has left unattended & clearly smouldering a bin of garden rubbish, without a lid, three feet from wooden fence, smoke billowing over, noticeable smell upstairs as windows open—-the HOTTEST day of the year!!. Ground is tinder dry, lots pf dry undergrowth, ivy etc. and heatwave forecast. This is second night of the little bonfire—Btw new tenants trying to tidy garden, not courteous - reckless? Please help.
Zee - 24-Jun-20 @ 11:27 PM
I got a similar situation. You said, that you contacted Environmental health. How they did react?
Mary - 21-Jun-20 @ 10:53 PM
I have lived in my property for 23 years. We haven’t had a garden remodel in about 10 of those years so it really is needed. We started by ripping old sheds down, and taking the decking up. Cutting back hedges and a few other bits. At the moment I can not get a space at our local recycling centre. How else am I supposed to get rid of such a large amount of garden waste that is perfectly fine to burn? Its even in a mid sized metal bin converted into an incinerator yet apparently after trying several times to contact the local neighbours there’s always the same one that says no I can’t do it! He complained about 6 months ago because my puppy at the time barked at 6:58 and it was apparently too much before 7! He has only been living there 8 months!
Chezney - 21-Jun-20 @ 7:10 PM
My neighbours had a huge bonfire 18 months ago on Bonfire Night - they didn't warn us and there was thick smoke and sparks flying through my garden! The next day my sons went out to use their trampoline and found holes in it where the sparks had melted it! Spoke to them and they said if we replace the mat they will pay for it so we tried to get a new one. The mat for our trampoline was constantly out of stock and so 18 months later we decided because the boys use the trampoline a lot we would buy a new one and just charge them for the price of a new mat! They haven't even offered the money and the trampoline has been up for over a week now. After all of this I have noticed that there is a pile of wood in their garden including some old decking which has been either treated or varnished and it looks like they are planning on having another bonfire very soon! I politely sent a message asking if that is what they were planning and said that burning treated or varnished wood gives off toxic fumes and they have completely ignored me! I have asthma and do not want to be subjected to this smoke any time and also we have just put up our new trampoline and I really don't want it damaged again!Where do I stand with this as if it goes ahead it will cause damage again and we can't keep replacing things damaged by their fires|!
Babs - 5-Jun-20 @ 5:37 PM
I moved into a council property 3 years ago the amount of over grown hedges trees grass poison plants shed was falling down, i am still cutting back the over grown mess the only way i can get rid of this mess is to burn it, why should i have to spend hundreds of pounds to have this amount of foliage removed i can not have my windows open because the amount of bugs this creates, i get complained about but my attitude is no one complained when the garden got in this state so why complain now it is getting cleared and if they want to pay to have it removed feel free so i shall continue to burn it,
Bessie - 4-Jun-20 @ 10:21 PM
Currently in bed during uk lockdown and there’s a heat wave it’s now gone cool so would love to have my bedroom windows open for some much needed breeze and fresh air.... oh wait I can’t Cos my selfish neighbors are burning there nightly fire pit right next To my fence I’m so angry right now breathing in the fumes whole house stinks and I can’t even have my windows open during a hot night
Katieross - 30-May-20 @ 11:28 PM
I have a problem with two neighbors who make fire every day and burn all sorts of things.I would like to know how I can claim them, because I can no longer open the window.I honestly can't stand it anymore, I can't breathe clean air anymore.please suggest me what I can do and how I can complain to them.
Gorbilian - 30-May-20 @ 10:52 PM
I really wish it was illegal to burn fires in urban areas FULL STOP! This would solve a lot of these complaints. I have 5 neighbours that just love having fires, often burning garden and household waste. becuse one has one, the others think ah well he had a fire, I might as well. They always do it when strong winds blow the smoke away from their houses and straight into ours. I've been polite and kept records and now started to reported them. Sinse lockdown it's gotten way out of hand though. My wife and I ard both key workers and find it really insulting how its just a government paid holiday for these idiots.Polite does not seem to work. I am so close to knocking one of them out!
Smoked Out - 28-May-20 @ 7:39 PM
Just received letter from landlord of having a fire pit. Can he say no fire pit allowed. Where as other landlord had no problem with this. The city says this is fine to have one.Does he have rights to say?
honey - 28-May-20 @ 7:10 PM
Hi JB, Firstly with the bonfire is it a regular occurrence or a one off? If infrequent my advice would be to wait it out. With regards to the weed most people who smoke are regular people to and have you actually tried speaking to them? Your first action should always be to have that discussion about an issue before even researching/proceeding elsewhere. It’s easy to critique a situation from an outside perspective.
Batman - 25-May-20 @ 11:49 PM
Anyone had any success in stopping these selfish neighbours gassing us out, can't even have the windows open on a hot night, if I do the house ends up smelling like ash!! My neighbour seems to be a nonconformist,he's a law of his own, stinks of weed too.
Jb - 25-May-20 @ 10:19 PM
Back in March,our fence blew down in the storms. Because of lockdown,and no one available to fix it,it remains blown down. Our neighbour has decided,he wants it fixed regardless of the current situation,so has set a fire right next to our patio where we sit. He threatened us verbally about a week ago,and has since set the fire,burning lots of household waste saying hes going to "smoke us out" until we get the fence replaced. My 3 year old granddaughter lives with us,and cant play in the garden because of what hes doing. I've reported his actions to Environmental health,but I'm wondering,should I involve the police as his actions are affecting our other neighbour,who has COPD? Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated as our lives are being blighted by this idiot. I have video evidence of his action.
Shelly - 19-May-20 @ 12:37 PM
I too have a neighbour regularly having fires burning their garden waste. It goes on from early evening until late at night. There are very large trees next to their garden that house many wild birds.The smoke is so thick smothering about 8 gardens near theirs.My house stinks of smoke, and I too have to go outside then stink of it all over my hair and clothes.My dog hates it and stinks of smoke too.Its unreasonable for people to have to burn, especially greengrass or other vegetation as it makes so much smoke.This is not good for the environment or people and animals/wildlife.There is a waste service every 2 weeks taking garden waste.No need to have to burn it.Wood burning or garden waste should be banned unless someone absolutely have no other way of getting rid.It's just really annoying especially if burning often and for a long time.No consideration... It should be taken more seriously with the environmental health how much it gets people pi**** off having to live with it!
Midge - 14-May-20 @ 11:33 PM
We live in South Lanarkshire and unfortunately we have neighbours who have recently started burning green Leylandii and logs in their garden, the smoke needs to be seen to be believed and the fumes that fill our house are so pungent that our son has ended up with a very bad cough. I contacted the Environmental Health dept and showed them pictures and videos of the issue, they came to our home and saw (from our garden) for themselves the smoke issue, they went and advised the neighbours of the smoke issue but nothing has changed, they still burn, not caring about everyone else. We got a reply via email from Environmental Health stating that their officers said at their visitor the smoke was “INTERMITTENT” so was not an issue, we asked how long it would take for the intermittent smoke/fumes to fill our sons bedroom but as yet they have not replied! SURELY THIS IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE?
Zuko666 - 14-May-20 @ 12:22 PM
Marko213 this is just a general advice site. You need to contact your local council/environmental health to report problems.
Pix - 2-May-20 @ 5:50 PM
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