Bonfires are dealt with under two areas of legislation, The Clean Air Acts and the Environmental Protection Act.

The Clean Air Acts make it a direct offence to burn materials in the open air on industrial or commercial premises, (including farms), which create dark or black smoke. This is an offence for which there are direct powers of prosecution.

Bonfires of a more typical nature, e.g. garden waste which occur usually at domestic premises are dealt with as a form of nuisance where the reasonable enjoyment of another person's land or house is being adversely affected. On receipt of a complaint of this form of nuisance the officers of the Environment Team will contact the person causing the smoke nuisance to encourage alternative means of disposal e.g. composting or recycling at one of the waste reclamation sites. An advice leaflet concerning issues relating to bonfires is available via the Customer Service Centre or Tenbury Area Office. If informal encouragement fails and a witnessed nuisance persists then issue of an abatement nuisance would be the next course of action, although formal action of this nature is rarely required.

Local Byelaws and General Guidance:

Contrary to popular belief, there are no local bylaws which provide, for example, an amnesty for those wishing to have a bonfire after 6:00 pm. There are no exemptions to the general principle of not causing a nuisance to your neighbours by the persistent lighting of bonfires. An occasional fire is usually acceptable provided that general common sense measures are taken, such as :

  • Take account of wind strength and direction and only have a fire at all if it is in a position of at least 30-40 metres from a neighbour. If smoke is blowing directly towards neighbours extinguish the fire as soon as is practicable.
  • Take account of the potential risk from hot embers carrying over to other buildings and fences.
  • Ensure that items to be burned are as dry as possible with the intention of having a quickly burning hot fire rather than a damp smoldering fire which creates smoke over a prolonged period.
  • Do not burn items of household waste or materials covered in paint or containing plastics as they will create dark or black smoke as well as acrid fumes.
  • Do not leave any fire unattended or use accelerants such as petrol to boost the performance of a fire.

Further Information:

See Garden Bonfires for more information.

Another useful site is Environmental Protection UK, formerly the National Society for Clean Air (NSCA). This site also has information on other Environmental issues.

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This page was last reviewed 14 September 2010 at 10:24 by Brian Edmunds.
The page is next due for review 13 March 2011.
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