It is not against the law to have bonfires, but care must be taken to make sure that the bonfire does not cause a nuisance to your neighbours.
If the bonfire causes a problem then this may mean you are causing a statutory nuisance. Where people use common sense, bonfires are not usually a problem.
We do not recommend burning of green waste; recycling is a more preferable way of disposal.
If there is no other alternative
The number of bonfires should be kept to a minimum and follow the bonfire code of practice [pdf] 299KB.
This code of practice is recommended to anyone contemplating having a bonfire. The code of practice for garden bonfires does not exclude any person from their legal liabilities under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Anyone lighting a bonfire should ensure that no nuisance is caused to neighbours by smoke, burning particles or odour and that the bonfire is sited so that it reduces the likelihood of nuisance.
Before having a bonfire
- Tell your neighbours so they can close windows or remove washing from clothes lines
- Check the prevailing wind direction and try to burn when the wind will carry smoke away from neighbouring properties, remembering the wind changes direction quickly
- Make sure everything to be burned is tinder dry, this way it will burn quickly and cause little, if any smoke
- Ensure the fire, once lit, is kept under supervision and should be completely extinguished before being left
- Have a bonfire if people are out in their gardens
- Have a bonfire if neighbours have their washing on the line
- Have a bonfire if your neighbours have their windows open
- Burn until an hour before dusk
- Burn on hot and humid nights (people could be sleeping with the windows open)
- Burn plastics
- Burn foam filled furnishings due to risk of dark smoke and offensive fumes
- Burn household refuse as many constituent parts are unsuitable for burning
- Burn rubber
- Burn foam
- Burn conifers
- Burn damp material like grass
Burning of commercial waste
In addition to the law of nuisance, it is an offence to produce dark smoke from industrial or trade premises. No bonfires should be lit on commercial premises.
- Action can be taken under the Clean Air Act 1993 for dark smoke
- Penalty can be an unlimited fine
- Incidents of industrial waste burning are reported to the Environment Agency who may prosecute under their legislation
Furniture and electrical goods
Furnishing materials and household refuse contain many materials which are unsuitable for burning. Instead, if it can be repaired, contact Furniture Re-Use Network who collect unwanted furniture for distribution to people in need.
Alternatively, many charity shops are only too pleased to take smaller items of furniture, bric-a-brac and clothes that can be reused or sold in their shops.
We also operate a bulky collection service for the removal of bulky household items.
All householders are responsible for ensuring their waste is disposed of under the Duty of Care Regulations and passed to authorised carriers only.
Householders should check that waste carriers (other than the council), who remove household, garden and building waste have an Environment Agency waste carrier number. If they are not registered do not use the service. If they claim to be registered, call the Environment Agency on 08708 506506 and request an instant 'waste carrier validation check' or check the Environment Agency website
If fly-tipped rubbish can be traced back to the household where it originated the householder rather than the waste carrier could be fined up to £5,000.