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Bonfire Nuisance in Your Neighbourhood

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 17 Apr 2017 | 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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[Add a Comment]
People who burn of rather than take their stuff to the tip are basically lazy, inconsiderate and stupid.
Agg25 - 17-Apr-17 @ 6:09 PM
My neighbour has a garden wood burner with a home made 8ft chimney which is approximately12ft from our bedroom. This means we have to close all doors and window to stop the smoke permintating through our home. This happens when they entertain including continuous music. We have tried to talking to our neighbours but the daughter with attitude gets involved.What else can we do we are in our 70s
Levice - 4-Sep-16 @ 11:43 AM
Hi Well I would much prefer not to have a bonfire.I own a van, which is not for commercial reasons, and I've obtained a permit from the local council to be able to take domestic rubbish to the tip. The first time I did that, they waved me in gladly, I tipped all the rubbish into it's corresponding area of the recycling facility and went to leave.Met as I was with a barrier on the exit I went to the window to ask for it to be raised and was presented with a £105 bill, which if not paid would lead to my van being seized.Apparently the 'permit' I got from the council was to give me access not for to cover costs. However, had I loaded all the rubbish into a car it would not be chargeable. Now we are renovating the house there is much more rubbish.I called the council and asked what they suggested and other than paying hundreds of pounds, the only option is to burn it. All I can say is had I won the lottery I would gladly pay for the disposal, but I haven't and since I only own the van - you guessed it I'm an unpopular neighbour. Thanks, that's off my chest but not any of my neighbours, here's hoping they read it.
Wish I didn't have - 25-Aug-16 @ 7:12 PM
We live in the country next to a 'farm' which is really now only used for horses and a large barn for storing stuff from commercial and residential clearances. Anything he can't sell he burns on the land next to our cottage, which we rent. The fumes and thick, black and noxious. I have evidence that he is burning commercial waste including rubber, metal, fridges etc. Despite this the environmental health team at my local council say he is not doing anything wrong or breaking any bylaws. Milton Keynes council's website states "toxic fumes from any bonfire you light will affect other people and will almost certainly constitute a Statutory Nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 on the grounds that the fumes are "injurious to health". Unfortunately we don't live in the Milton Keynes area and have to put up with our nuisance farmer neighbour and his odious bonfire habits. The bonfires are so large that they are often burning overnight and smouldering the next day - the Fire Service state that any bonfires should not be left unattended - he certainly doesn't attend to his.
Smokey eyes - 24-Aug-16 @ 5:25 PM
Jaz - Your Question:
I'm one of those who has bonfires. I cut down old Leyland trees from my garden. My local council takes garden refuse, but not logs. They define a log as anything more than half an inch in diameter. So I was left with plenty of logs. Although it means that I have countless trips to the local tip with all the logs I have, I would do so. But as the "local" tip is some 10 miles away, that's absolutely ludicrous. Which means the only way to get rid of these logs is to burn them.I live in a house at the end of a street. I asked my next door neighbour if he had any objections to me having some bonfires. He was fine with it. Some 20 minutes after I started the bonfire, there was a man shouting from his back garden asking me to put it out - and he was about 50 yards away in the next street! I was burning only logs - no green leaves - just logs. There was no more smoke then would come from a barbecue.He came to my house, gave me the usual "bonfires are illegal" business (not true). But as he was younger and bigger than me, and looked the type not to be argued with, I put the fire out as I didn't want to find my car damaged the next day. So I'm left with the logs.

Our Response:
It's a difficult situation for you and anyone else who has to cut down trees like leylandii which grow profusely. It's also ironic that these trees are often the initial cause of neighbour disputes because of their height and light blocking tendencies. Some of these alternatives are costly and may not be viable, but you could:
Try selling/giving the logs to anyone with a wood burning stove
Ring the council and ask if they have or know of anyone who needs logs and can collect them
Employ the services of a tree surgeon etc
Advertise the logs on your local social media site
Just carry on and ignore your neighbours complaints until all the logs are burnt ;-)
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Aug-16 @ 10:45 AM
So the neighbor behind my house has a garden fire every week. I think it might be garden waste due the car getting coverd in ash and what looks like grass and hedge trimmings. The most annoying thing is the kids trampoline gets covered in ash and smoke is everywhere the weather is really hot so we have to close all the windows. Is this a case to be reported?
Buzz - 18-Aug-16 @ 7:05 PM
I'm one of those who has bonfires.I cut down old Leyland trees from my garden.My local council takes garden refuse, but not logs.They define a log as anything more than half an inch in diameter.So I was left with plenty of logs.Although it means that I have countless trips to the local tip with all the logs I have, I would do so.But as the "local" tip is some 10 miles away, that's absolutely ludicrous.Which means the only way to get rid of these logs is to burn them. I live in a house at the end of a street.I asked my next door neighbour if he had any objections to me having some bonfires.He was fine with it.Some 20 minutes after I started the bonfire, there was a man shouting from his back garden asking me to put it out - and he was about 50 yards away in the next street!I was burning only logs - no green leaves - just logs.There was no more smoke then would come from a barbecue. He came to my house, gave me the usual "bonfires are illegal" business (not true).But as he was younger and bigger than me, and looked the type not to be argued with, I put the fire out as I didn't want to find my car damaged the next day.So I'm left with the logs.
Jaz - 18-Aug-16 @ 2:59 AM
So I commented a week ago about my neighbours constant bonfires. We are now on night 7. My daughter who was born at 29 weeks with chronic lung disease is coughing badly. We are having to close the windows still and the weather is good which means it's hot in the house. Any advice? Do you think I should contact environmental health now? Do you think I have a case?
Sindy Tink - 14-Aug-16 @ 7:17 PM
I live in a suburban area which all the houses are very close to each other. My next door have bon fire every Summer when the weather reach 90's . They even never put the fire off when they go to bed. I can't open the windows because of the smokes . They even make noise too. I tried to talk to them but they did not do anything.Please help me, what can I do.Thank you
mimi - 14-Aug-16 @ 8:11 AM
I live in a block of flats where there are 1 downstairs and I am above them like a maisonette. My neighbors have bonfires right below my windows and never have the decency to let me know. When it is boiling hot in the summer I can't open my windows, they don't even let me know so I can shut my windows before the start the fire. Even with my windows shut you can still smell the awful smell and it makes the place stink for days. Both my 6 year old and 1 year old suffer from Asthma and the bonfires do not help
SLD - 13-Aug-16 @ 9:02 PM
Sindy Tink - Your Question:
This week is really hot in the evenings. No choice but to keep windows open with small children etc. Neighbours started their bonfire at 8.30 pm. My child has just told me that their children have said they are planning a bonfire every night this week. This is probably going to be the hottest week of the year according to the forecast. House already stinking of smoke. Is it acceptable for them to do it every night for a week in this heat?

Our Response:
There are no real laws about bonfires, but you could contact your environmental health department for advice on a neighbour that is doing this on a nightly basis.
ProblemNeighbours - 11-Aug-16 @ 12:41 PM
This week is really hot in the evenings. No choice but to keep windows open with small children etc. Neighbours started their bonfire at 8.30 pm. My child has just told me that their children have said they are planning a bonfire every night this week. This is probably going to be the hottest week of the year according to the forecast. House already stinking of smoke. Is it acceptable for them to do it every night for a week in this heat?
Sindy Tink - 9-Aug-16 @ 8:59 PM
My neighbourbring in wood to burn her rubbish and a sunny Sunday I got my windows shut. she gets some to bring the wood in to burn her rubbish
robbie - 31-Jul-16 @ 6:38 PM
Ive lived in my lovely South yorkshire Housing Propertyhappily for 12 years and made it lovely. The person next door to me, bought the ex council house and rents it . Hes not bothered who he rents it too as long as he gets the money. Ive now got the neighbours from hell living next door to me Romanians. Music on at all times, burning fires at all times of the day. The process of dealing with it is slow and in the mean time , my nerves are getting bad. They burn fires on the path of the shared access. Ive had all nationalities next door and got on with every single one of them. These are just vile! Ive tried speaking to them in a proper manner , but they dont care., Apparently the absentee land lord took him self on holiday while Im living with his night mare tenants. . They lay in bed all day and drive flashy cars and all I can smell is drugs. When you tell the police they ask me what I think their doing. What do the police actually do these days . Cos its just beyond me !
Ness - 17-Jul-16 @ 5:53 PM
Fed up- Your Question:
We have just moved into a new build house been here for 5 weeks, our neighbours at the back of us are doing bonfires every weekend we have even had ash coming into our garden from the bonfires it is now midnight and it still stinks from the bonfires, not only weekends sometimes during the week from 10am it's still going at 5pm.

Our Response:
As the article says: "Go round to their house and ask them politely to extinguish it or if they could do anything to reduce its effects. Ifthey 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."
ProblemNeighbours - 12-Jul-16 @ 11:01 AM
We have just moved into a new build house been here for 5 weeks, our neighbours at the back of us are doing bonfires every weekend we have even had ash coming into our garden from the bonfires it is now midnight and it still stinks from the bonfires, not only weekends sometimes during the week from 10am it's still going at 5pm.
Fed up - 10-Jul-16 @ 12:08 AM
well I am one of those people who wanted a bonfire first time ever since living here for 30 years and had a load of vivariums from my animal rescue days, light it up and straight away a elderly "neighbour" goes on about his wifes laundry, despite him living a street over and it my first time lighting one up and with no car or way to get rid of it I was a bit irritated when he immediately was there with a attitude shouting about the community, getting the council informed and how law prevented me which it doesnt unless its regular and like I said before first one! I made it politely clear it was the first time and I had checked the law and found I was in my rights, it was only wood and would take at tops a hour to burn out and I certainly didnt appreciate him giving me crap when unlike other households we dont have loud music, regular parties, let our dogs bark all hours or fires like other people in our street. So bare in mind if your going to confront someone over a bonfire A if its their first one just be polite, B don't threaten them with legal action when it has no basis in actual law, C be tolerent don't tell them about how they should get rid of it another way for alot of people getting to the local tip is not a option, not everyone has a car, C rambling on about community spirit in a neighborhood known for having issues at one of the few good households is a bloody cheek, D dont march over with a attitude when you have no buisness butting in in someone elses property.
sick of neighbours - 28-Jun-16 @ 11:22 AM
I have a neighbour who has a garage door business and he brings home the waste from his jobs and burns it in his front garden next to our lounge window. The smoke can be acrid and represents a real nuisance as he lights fires a couple of times a week. None of the timber or wood he burns comes from his own property. I have tried to reason with the neighbour so we can agree a burning schedule to avoid spoiling washing on a clothes line but he simply says he isn't breaking any laws. I am concerned for the health of our grandson who lives with us because much of the timber the neighbour burns is painted or treated with preservative. The council have so fare failed to act.
Scotiaboy - 23-Jun-16 @ 8:30 PM
CACA - Your Question:
My neibour is burning garden waste in his front garden causing a lot of smoke I have c.o.p.d and it is making me cought all day and night there is no talking to him what can I do

Our Response:
How often does he have his bonfires. If they are frequent and emit a lot of smoke, your environmental health officer might be able to take action.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-Jun-16 @ 12:05 PM
my neibour is burning garden waste in his front garden causing a lot of smoke i have c.o.p.d and it is making me cought all day and night there is no talking to him what can i do
CACA - 12-Jun-16 @ 2:28 PM
Bought a special bin to burn my heaps of sensitive paperwork which I have to keep for a number of years for HMRC. Maybe if local councils provided a safe large shredder which we could use use safely even at a small cost,it would reduce the need to burn stuff. I am just going to light a fire to burn a shrub which has been covered with a strange sort of cob webb,just in case it is infectious. I have checked all the neighbours, no washing out .I have also found wood worm in branches of an overhanging neighbours fir tree which I have cut back at his request. Do not want this in my house. Even with a degree in recycling I still think there is a place in this world for the lovely outdoors smell of a BONFIRE.
honeybee - 21-May-16 @ 2:24 PM
I regularly enjoy lighting a bonfire, I use it to burn all my rubbish as the local recycling centre does not allow trade vehicles (I'm a plumber). Luckily being in the countryside the only people who get bothered by it are those that have sold their expensive homes in the city to live the "quiet life" in a rural area. The ash also does wonders for my strawberry plants.
Marvin - 17-May-16 @ 8:00 PM
We had some builders burning rubbish outside causing very bad smoke and fumes He was very rude and abusive to my husband. A few neighbours came out someone had to call fire brigade to put fire out We do not want this happening again Plus not first time he has done this
Lyndy Lou - 1-May-16 @ 2:47 PM
I have a fair sized garden with a garage at the top,I have fitted a log burner as work on motorcycles etc in the colder months.I tend to chuck smokeless coal on it so I don't cause the neighbours any disruption andsmoke them out. I class my self as justbeing considerate to others. Going back to bonfires,we have some inconsiderate ***** in a huge house over the field from us who used to light huge bellowing fires that smoked us all out,it's horrendous really,Windows clossed it still stinks your house out.Not to mention the environment that everyone including the government recons they care about so much about . And why is it that when you get a cracking nice day,garentee some arse**** will light one up. Shouting at him like a mad man seemed to work the last time. Use the recycling centres like the rest of us have to!
Gaz72 - 17-Apr-16 @ 3:18 PM
In the country we have bonfires...social housing built in rural areas should be for people who are from rural areas, not people from housing estates.
Fed up - 31-Mar-16 @ 12:32 AM
I am sick to death of the garden fires in my area,and to be told its legal to light one anywhere as long as its supervised I was given this information by the fire service today.Which to say I was quite shocked.something can and should be done.Its not acceptable why should we have to put up with this unacceptable behaviour.Iam sure if it was happening near the prime minister etc it would soon get stamped out.NO ITS UP TO US PEOPLETO STICK TOGETHER ON THIS.I am not saying no fires but something needs to be put into place, we pay our taxes we have a right to some say.
Lorra-Rende - 28-Dec-15 @ 12:55 PM
We have hay and straw which we have to dispose of weekly. Yet burning it gets a torrent of abuse from neighbours. These are neighbours who keep me awake till 3am with music and forced drunken laughter regularly. I miss living in the countryside where people have a greater sense of way of life, than worrying about a neighbours fire! So if I can't drive and my recycling bin is full how am I supposed to dispose of waste? Hire a permanent skip? In the countryside people do this as a necessity. Life is so easy there! No noise from drunken parties and no one cares if you burn a bag of straw! I think people just like to look for problems to make others lives difficult. Controlling what I do in my garden hasn't done them any favours, and II have other ways to inconvenience them just as they inconvenience me. Live and let live is my moto until some prat dictates to me, then it's give as good as you get!
Country life in a cr - 25-Oct-15 @ 12:39 PM
I am so sick of these fires! If its not one household its another nearby. Why should we have to put up with breathing in smoke almost daily! Isn't it about time the government banned them?! Lets get a petition on the go!
Noodle - 19-Oct-15 @ 7:14 PM
Just posted comment but I think it vanished. we have a severe problem with bonfires and wood burning stoves.It gets worse all the time and the council can do nothing even though my husband has asbestosis and emphysema. We should form a pressure group to stop this health destroying nuisance .I always compost everything even papersbut these neighbours dont know or dont care . Cigarette smoking is banned but this is worse in my opinion as just anything gets burned and you cant walk away from it. Thelingering smell is ruining my home.I feel there is no qua;ity of life without clean air to breath inside and outside your home.
marlene - 10-Oct-15 @ 5:38 PM
I livein a village on the south coast and recently lots of people have moved here from London buy large houses with big gardens and are always burning something plus they have log burning stoves.yesterday there was a huge fire with the wind blowing directly towards our estate of houses and the smoke still cameinto our house with all the windows which I had shut quickly.Now the next day there is still a strong smell of smoke and I have a sore throat and headache while my husband hassevere lung disease. I grew up here and the air was fine then.So much for the fresh sea air . wish we could all band together and get the fires banned except for bonfire night of course!
Marlene - 10-Oct-15 @ 5:26 PM
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