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Bonfire Nuisance in Your Neighbourhood

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 30 Sep 2019 | 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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Tonight around 7.15pm could smell smoke in our lounge, doot and windows shut! Looked out, next door had some sort of fire pit going full.blast, against our fence, which incidentally is less than 4 months old and he has already damaged it. Some 6 feet away a BBQ is going also. Went upstairs bedroom full.of smoke smell, windows only open a small amount, but it got in. Result, asthma attack, they are aware I have lung issues, but do not care, coughing badly, still coughing nearly 2 hours later, and now have chest pains. Hope this does not happen on a regular basis or council, police and fire brigade will be consulted, not to forget I may end up in hospital again. If I cough upstairs, she bangs on the walls, so guess what, plenty coughing tonight and not deliberately!
CathyB - 7-Sep-19 @ 9:01 PM
He is outside now cutting down a holly bush. Also trying to dig up the roots stuck right against the corner of out end terrace property. I can't believe he has 2 grandchildren & he doesn't even realise how much he is doing wrong he is causing for their future. By the time he has burnt another fire maybe I should mention about the environmental issues. He is leaching behind for his family.
Zed - 7-Sep-19 @ 3:19 PM
The fires these people have are disgusting, to the person saying people should take it, rubbish, it's about common decency towards your neighbors. That's the point of being a neighbour, we all have to live next to each other, life is much nicer if you're friendly and respect others. One or more of my neighbours have been burning junk for hours. Councils have recycling centers in multiple locations, they do collections regularly. The people that do it near my house drive and have the time to take their rubbish to the local tip, so why not do so? Garden cuttings can all be composted very easily, make no nasty smell and actually put something back into the soil, which these inconsiderate morons end up buying from garden centers, rather than plan ahead and make their own, saving themselves some money. It's just laziness and downright rude!
Si - 2-Sep-19 @ 1:39 AM
How can there not be laws for bon fires ? when thereis no smoking any where at all now and we allow bonfires with soot smells ,smoke to go in neighbors windows fires should not at all be allowed for any reason, nobody has to burn anything and certainly not for entertainment.. go camping for god sakes why do people have to be subjected to this !
Trudy - 16-Aug-19 @ 3:31 AM
Nuisance neighbors who burn rubbish in my neighborhood in Birmingham, West Midlands are ones who own or work in takeaways, restaurants and fast food outlets. We have recycling bins which they could use. But they burn all the rubbish at home in those metal incinerator bins because they don't want to pay the council for commercial waste collection. In summer it is unbearable when we have the stench of burning waste coming into our open windows. There's no community spirit or accountability, the government needs to bring in new laws to tackle this. Birmingham City Council are charging drivers with old diesel vehicles to drive in certain parts of the city centre because of pollution, if they really cared about pollution they'd ban those cars and make garden fires illegal!
Bert - 25-Jul-19 @ 11:43 PM
A neighbour three/four doors down was burning something in their garden last night, we had all windows and back door open and so was alerted to the foul smell, we went outside to work out where it may be coming from, the whole area was covered in thick black smoke. We were stood outside no more than 2/3 minutes and when we returned inside we noticed we were covered in black ash, all over, any exposed skin, in our hair and on our clothing. We closed all of the windows and door immediately and it wasn't until this morning that we noticed that around the door opening in the kitchen and round the windows there are sections on the walls/floor covered with black ash. Also blowing my nose today i have discovered there is a lot of black ash up my nose! Surely this cannot be safe or considerate of your neighbours/environment
Covered in black ask - 24-Jul-19 @ 8:43 AM
We have a neighbour who burns dog excretament , chicken droppings and cleaning outs rubbish and other foul stuff. It is at any time of day , no warning and chokes the whole area , fellow neighbours and further afield. It is terrible , I was only in the smoke a few minutes and I could not breathe , my eyes were running all my clothes required washing it was so putrid. There seems no help with this problem...any ideas?
Sore eyes - 16-Jul-19 @ 4:36 PM
Nuisance antisocial neighbours in Chitterfield gate, Sipson have stinky bonfires twice/ three times a week. I think they burn all their household rubbish. Stinks the whole neighbourhood out so even on a hot day you can’t open any windows.
Bo - 25-Jun-19 @ 4:13 PM
Our next door neighbor insists on burning dog hair, farces, and plastic we have spoken to him 3 or 4 time and hebhas apologied, just caught him doing it again at 11pm thinking that we are all in bed. He burns in in a small corner of his garden no more than 5 meters away from our back door above which are our children’s bedroom windows.
Jona28 - 22-May-19 @ 11:48 PM
All of you whining honkeys need to shut up and take it. Inhale the smoke. Just shut up. You sound like a bunch of sissy retards.
Sheeeeeeit! - 28-Apr-19 @ 5:31 AM
Its currently 1am. My neighbours kid (19 or somet) has decided to burn some rubbish in his garden.. I came to this website looking for actions I should take but idk what to do. I'm only 18 myself and this is actually disgusting. He almost fave me a heart attack as I woke up to my fire alarm bleeding ringing
Emkee - 13-Apr-19 @ 12:04 AM
I live in an area which has become to burning capital of the UK. People around this area are constantly burning, so far it stand at eight days of solid burning starting last Saturday (23/3/19). One of the fires as been burning since Monday(horse bedding from a stable) and there have been two others at it also. I am so fed up with the selfish self centred attitude of people in the uk and lack of common sense by the local council which is making living in this area unbearable nowadays.
Two cuts - 30-Mar-19 @ 8:08 PM
My neighbour is having a bonfire in an old washing machine drum on a wooden decking area which is built onto a wooden fence that is actually built into my garden hedge and also is leaning against his other neighbours garrage . My question is due to the fact he is drinking taking drugs and letting his children play with thefire , who and how do I report this taking note his best mate works for leeds anti social behavior team
Tom - 30-Mar-19 @ 7:48 PM
The house next to me is a rental property, and the landlord only rents to East Europeans. Right next to our party fence, which belongs to me, some tenant built some kind of cooking pit, which every tenant has used ever since, to burn all kinds of stuff. The smoke is often thick, black and foul. I always have to have windows closed, even in summer. They have BBQs on it all year round, even in the middle of winter. I'm sick and tired of it all.
Fed up - 16-Feb-19 @ 4:23 PM
my neighbour constantly burns rubbish in an unsafe high risk area covered in fly tipping and undergrowth necer warns so windows open stinks out my home and stops my dog wanting to go out as he just smells fire and panics. would it be possible to have this stopped the address is 60hawthorne avenue lowestoft suffolk nr33 9bd. regards
northy - 5-Jan-19 @ 11:28 AM
Sick of thefumes - Your Question:
Where I rent the son next door is actually bringing waste to the property and piling it into a bonfire and setting fire to it regularly There are all kinds of plastics and mattresses being burnt. How can it be legal?

Our Response:
Your local environmental health department will be able to take action over this; it sounds like your neighbour is operating some kind of business.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Aug-18 @ 12:57 PM
Where I rent the son next door is actually bringing waste to the property and piling it into a bonfire and setting fire to it regularlyThere are all kinds of plastics and mattresses being burnt. How can it be legal?
Sick of thefumes - 5-Aug-18 @ 9:58 PM
I have had the police around to me tonight because I am at the end of my teather with my neighbour constantly burning wood in his fire pit...in this hot hot weather I am unable to open my Windows as my rooms stink of smoke & the fumes effect my chest...how is it allowed that they can impact my peaceful living that way. I have thrown bucketfuls of water onto their garden & have had the police called on me, I readily admitted to this as I want it documented that I can't cope with this anymore. No one does anything & stupidly Environmental health say it's legal and therefore ok? I'm not sure what I'd be capable of next?
Olliedog - 27-Jul-18 @ 11:09 PM
There is a contradiction in this article that lies at the heart of the matter. You write: "there are no restrictions as to what time of the day or day of the week you can have it on. ". Then you write: "firm legislation in place which you must comply with to ensure that your bonfire does not contravene the Environmental Protection Act." But you don't explain what that legislation is in relation to bonfires, if anything at all. You talk about "consideration" and "should" and "shouldn't", but what does the actual Law say? It seems to say nothing about garden bonfires. In a comment, you talk about people being prosecuted for "breaching the law" but you already said there are no laws in relation to garden bonfires. I think there are laws inrelation to industrial strength bonfires and heavy industry smoke, but nothing stopping individuals having a bonfire 24/7 if they desire. People who are that inconsiderate, by definition, do not respond to "polite requests" to refrain from their selfish behaviour. So if after repeatedly having your house filled with smoke in the summer, you call Environmental Health, what exactly are they going to do? What law has the "bonfire ever day" neighbour broken? Surely without a law there is nothing at all to stop them? And that is the solution - there needs to be clear laws on this. Hours need to be stated. There is no reason to have a private garden bonfire after, say 9 pm. There should be a maximum duration, say 2 hours. There should be a legal maximum height etc. All of this would be easy to add to legislation and as society gets more greedy, selfishand inconsiderate as well as in Britain, highly overpopulated, would do so much to improve the quality of life.
Man-Erg - 27-Jul-18 @ 10:14 PM
My neighbours, who are so close they have to put a ladder in our garden to clean their new extension, have “ made over” their garden and now have a fire pit. They buy the wood for the fire pit and use it nearly every night while the weather is hot. We are unable to enjoy our garden because of it and have been suffering terribly from smoke odour in our home to the point the I felt suffocated by it last night. I now have no option but to close all of our windows, in this heat, because we are now acquiring a smoke smell throughout our home on our soft furnishings. Neither my husband or I smoke and we both have health issues, I am on beta blockers for my heart. The pit is situated at the bottom of his garden which is about 15metres from my back door. I can’t believe that this new trend can just be allowed to ruin people’s lives like this. He als had a wood fire burner put in at great expense as it is a new build gas centrally heated house and buys wood to burn on that. The smell in my home is now upsetting me and my being overwhelmed by the smokey air in my bedroom last night is making me despair. What can I do about this? Can anyone advise me please, it’s now pretty unbareable.
Sooo Sick and tired - 12-Jul-18 @ 2:56 PM
Are there any additional regulations about bonfires during a heatwave? Everyone’s grass is burnt and large fires have been documented in the news. Yet, our neighbour decided to have a bonfire last night when everyone’s windows were open and the ground is particularly vulnerable to catching fire. There is ash and smoke in everyone’s house, which is causing problems sleeping at night. A small fire truck came round. But did nothing.
philbaz01 - 10-Jul-18 @ 8:13 AM
Sapphire - Your Question:
I have had major issues with a private renter who lives above me, I live in a council house while they are private, they burn garden waste which is harmful with the black smoke, and the toxins that's going into the air, I have chronic respaitory illnesses and the smoke is polluting my air ways, is there anything I can do approaching them is not a option

Our Response:
Environmental health may be able to take action in relation to this.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Jun-18 @ 3:06 PM
I have had major issues with a private renter who lives above me, i live in a council house while they are private, they burn garden waste which is harmful with the black smoke, and the toxins that's going into the air, i have chronic respaitory illnesses and the smoke is polluting my air ways, is there anything i can do approaching them is not a option
Sapphire - 2-Jun-18 @ 12:01 AM
My neighbour burns the straw / hay and manure from their chickens. Although to be fair there is hardly any smoke the fire creates awful fumes / smell. This smell carries on right in to the night as the fire smoulders rather than actually burns. This is done regularly once a fortnight, is this legal. She does leave a text to say she is having a bonfire the night before. But it still doesn't make it right does it? Is there any thing we can do about it?
TSJ - 1-Jun-18 @ 3:34 PM
Sadly no choice - Your Question:
I understand how a bonfire is unpopular and annoying, however not every body has the ability to take garden waste to the local centre. I don't drive, I don't know anyone who does and I can't afford to pay somebody to collect my garden waste. I don't see why I cannot use a small incinerator bin early morning. As long as I have safety precautions, inform neighbours, keep it small and only burn dry garden waste.

Our Response:
As long as you check the wind direction and that your neighbours do not have washing out, an occasional small bonfire may be your only option. In the UK however there are not many councils that don't take garden waste as part of the roadside refuse collection. Whereabouts do you live?
ProblemNeighbours - 14-May-18 @ 10:25 AM
I understand how a bonfire is unpopular and annoying, however not every body has the ability to take garden waste to the local centre. I don't drive, I don't know anyone who does and I can't afford to pay somebody to collect my garden waste. I don't see why I cannot use a small incinerator bin early morning. As long as I have safety precautions, inform neighbours, keep it small and only burn dry garden waste.
Sadly no choice - 13-May-18 @ 6:10 AM
My Neighbour is constantly lighting fires and the smoke is driving me nuts.I'm just waiting for an opportunity to throw paint stripper on his car that can't be proven it was me.
Fed Up - 2-May-18 @ 11:20 PM
I had a bonfire hate them it was a one off had chopped down my front gigantic Bush and it was blocking my alley way.. So had to burn it... Had to maintain it so it didn't get out of control but won't be doing that again it stunk and I can understand how any neighbors feel
Katy.p - 21-Apr-18 @ 11:30 PM
A neighbour regularly has a bonfire burning used adult nappies. The smell is appalling. It lasts for hours.All the other neighbours have to shut their windows and doors. Is the burning of such items illegal and if so then what is the proper way to dispose of them?
Maxi - 20-Apr-18 @ 11:03 PM
My neighbour has a chimney coming from his extension. Every day he burns from morning to night and the smell of burning and bonfire is in our home daily. My daughters bedroom has no avenue of ventilation now as if her window is open it’s strong and if closed she has a terrible smokey smell that is getting to her chest. I slept in her room one night and woke up feeling gastly with this smell and quite intoxicated! The chimney is also very close to our trees and if it caught fire our shed and the lot would go up in flames too. What can I do? I don’t know if it’s a smoke free zone or not
Miss M - 3-Feb-18 @ 8:43 AM
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