There are no laws prohibiting you from having a garden bonfire or BBQ. However, these fires should not be a nuisance to your neighbours.
Burning waste on a bonfire makes smoke, especially if it is damp and smouldering. This smoke contains pollutants such as carbon monoxide, dioxins and fine particles. Burning plastic, rubber or painted material not only creates an unpleasant smell but a range of poisonous compounds.
Alternatives to a bonfire
Composting, recycling and collection are alternatives to burning rubbish on a bonfire. For example you can:
- compost garden waste which can produce a useful soil conditioner and also help to save you money
- we offer a fully subscription-based collection service for garden waste, which collects fortnightly throughout the year
If you do decide to have a bonfire, in addition to the legislation it is also important that you consider how the bonfire might affect your neighbours, as this issue can cause many disputes.
We do have a duty to investigate complaints of smoke nuisance and if smoke is causing a statutory nuisance we have a duty to serve an abatement notice.
So, we have come up with the following guidelines for having garden bonfires which may reduce the likelihood of complaints. We still have a duty to investigate even if you have followed this advice.
If you are having a bonfire:
- only burn dry material
- never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
- never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light a bonfire
- don't light a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening. If it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbours gardens and across roads
- don't burn at weekends or on bank holidays when people want to enjoy their gardens
- never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - douse it with water if necessary
- as a general guideline, don’t light your bonfire any later than one hour before dusk and far better do it in the morning or early afternoon
- you need to think carefully about where in your garden you are going to situate 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