Bonfire Nuisance

Trouble with bonfires?

Article Covers:

- Advice on Bonfires
- Legislation
- What should I do if I want to have a bonfire?

Advice on Bonfires

The main nuisance element from bonfires is the smoke.

Imagine that you're trying to have a peaceful afternoon sitting in your garden; or you've just hung out a line of clean washing then ends up smelling of smoke. Perhaps it has been a nice day and you have had your windows open all day only for your home to be permeated by the stench of smoke.

You might be worried if your neighbour's fire is close to your property that there is a risk of it catching and spreading, for example if the fire was lit next to your hedge or fence.


Unfortunately, there is no specific law that include bonfires making them illegal in their own sense, but as further described below the emissions and smoke coming from fires can cause a 'Statutory Nuisance' under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Some local authorities (LA) have adopted Codes of Practice in dealing with bonfires - check to see if yours has one.

Bonfires may constitute a "Statutory Nuisance" under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (a statutory nuisance includes "smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance"), if the annoyance -

(a) interferes unreasonably with the quiet enjoyment of your property, and

(b) is frequent (in how often they are lit and for the length of time they are lit)

If your neighbour is lighting lots of bonfires, what can you do about it?

You should start writing down on a sheet so that you have a record of when your neighbour has been lighting bonfires, this will include: dates, times and the nuisance it caused.

You should talk to your neighbour and see if you can reach a compromise situation. If you feel you can't talk to your neighbour, you should write to them (always keep a copy of anything you send to your neighbour).

If your neighbour does not take your views on board, then you should contact your local Environmental Health Department (EH) at your LA to make an official complaint. They will try to resolve the nuisance issue of your neighbours' bonfires. They may come to your neighbours' property to witness the bonfire.

If they have evidence that the bonfire is a statutory nuisance, then they will contact your neighbour (they will not reveal who made the complaint, but your neighbour may guess that it is you).

If there is enough evidence of a statutory nuisance, then the EH may serve an Abatement Order/Notice on your neighbour (your neighbour could appeal against this Notice to the Magistrates Court).

If the nuisance continues after the serving of the Abatement Order/ Notice, then your neighbour is committing an offence and if found guilty, could have a fine imposed on him/her. If the case went to Court, then your identity may have to be revealed and you may have to give evidence.

If you want to have a bonfire, what should you do?

  • Speak to your neighbours, see if you can agree a time and site for the fire

  • Keep it away from your neighbours property

  • Keep it away from combustible materials

  • Keep water nearby

  • Stay by the fire at all times and monitor it

  • Don't light it when your neighbours' washing is out

  • Don't light it if your neighbours' are in their garden

  • Don't light it if your neighbours' windows are open

  • Don't burn wet materials, plastic, rubber or other materials which cause dark smoke and noxious fumes

  • Don't let smoke blow onto a road/ public highway

More Help and Advice?

Remember: That if you are currently selling your property or plan to in the future all disputes with your neighbour that have been formally reported and/or acted upon need to be declared to potential or actual buyers. If you don't do this, you could be legally challenged or at worst, sued!

When a dispute has been recorded or put down in writing, or where complaints to an authority (council) have been made, then this needs to be informed to any potential buyers of your property. Ask your solicitor for more information about this.

You can also join the forum board to ask for more help and information.

This article last revised: 27th June 2003