This page provides advice on how to avoid causing a nuisance by smoke or ash from garden bonfires. Such smoke and ash can be very irritating and cause a great deal of distress to neighbours.The Law
Under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, smoke and ash caused by bonfires may be a statutory nuisance. The District Council has a legal duty to take action against those who create a nuisance or allow it to happen. Private individuals are also able to take their own action by complaint to the Magistrates Court. It can also be an offence under the Highways Act 1980 to have bonfires which are on land near to roads and which cause inconvenience or danger to road traffic and passers-by. This is enforced by the police.What's the Problem?
Bonfires have been a means of disposing of domestic and garden waste for many years. Bonfires seem like a harmless way of getting rid of your rubbish, but they can cause nuisance to your neighbours. Bonfire smoke can ruin the enjoyment of your neighbours' property, preventing them from opening their windows or hanging out washing. It can also reduce visibility in your neighbourhood putting motorists, cyclists and pedestrians at risk. Those residents who suffer from chest complaints such as asthma are also badly affected by smoke.
The problems associated with bonfire smoke have increased over the years, causing more and more people to complain. With more plastics now being used in the home and garden, toxic fumes may be emitted unless great care is taken with the contents of a bonfire.If you must have a bonfire please follow these guidelines :-
- If you light a bonfire, ensure that the material to be burnt is dry. This will minimise the amount of smoke produced. Do not light a fire when the weather conditions might cause the smoke to travel into your neighbours' gardens or properties.
- Burn everything quickly in small piles. A quick hot fire will produce only the minimum amount of smoke.
- Position any bonfire as far away from buildings as possible. Don't light a fire if the wind will carry the smoke over the road.
- Remember that smoke will hang in the air on a damp, windless day and in the evening around sunset.
- Take care to keep children away from a bonfire. Supervise burning as much as possible.
- Never leave a fire to smoulder, put it out with either water or soil.
- Remember, heaps of garden refuse provide a haven for small animals. Check before you light.
- Never add household rubbish, oil rags, rubber, plastics, aerosols or any other material which will create toxic fumes.
When informal action is not possible or fails, you should complain to your Local Authority and they will investigate your complaint.
Once you make a formal complaint, you will be asked to complete diary log sheets, which should provide accurate details of
- A description of the smoke/odour and how it affects you in your home or garden
- The dates the smoke/odour disturbs you
- The times the smoke/odour starts and then stops.
- The diary sheets should then be returned to us for analysis, and based on this evidence appropriate action will be taken. This may involve visits to your property to witness the disturbances you are experiencing.
If you wish to register a formal complaint, you can either complete the nuisance complaint online form
, or contact Environmental Health below.
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If you have garden rubbish to dispose of try and compost as much as possible. Here are a few tips:-a)
Simply mix garden clippings and grass cuttings with kitchen waste, into a composting bin and then leave to rot down for a few months. b)
Compost bin - A specially made composting bin can be purchased at a reduced rate through the Council’s home composting scheme. Please contact the Environment Team on 01895 837361 for more information. You can alternatively make your own by removing the bottom from an old bin or tub.c)
Shredding- The smaller the pieces of waste the quicker the composting takes place. A shredder is ideal but you don’t have to have one. All household waste sites operate a FREE chipping service, allowing you to take back home what you require.
The Council operates a green bag scheme specifically for garden refuse, through its contractor Verdant. A charge is made for provision of these sacks and for arranging their collection. You should contact Verdant for further details by telephoning 01494 763085. Bulky household refuse will also be collected by the Council. This is a free service for up to 10 items. Please contact the Refuse section at South Bucks District Council. Telephone (01895) 837260 .
The remainder can be taken to one of the household waste recycling centres which are located at :-
Bonfire MythsQ I understand that I am allowed to light my bonfire after 6 pm in the evening? A
- Langley Park Road , Langley.
- CrowPiece Lane, Burnham.
- Candlemas Lane, Beaconsfield.
No such Bylaw exists in South Bucks District or any of the surrounding areas.Q I have always had regular bonfires , but recently my new neighbours have complained. Surely they must expect regular fires in the country? A
Sorry, no. Anything which stops your neighbours enjoying the use of their land could be deemed a nuisance.Q My neighbour has regular bonfires. Nobody needs to have a fire, surely the Council can stop him? A
The Council has no powers to prevent someone lighting a fire. However, it can be controlled if the smoke is regular and/or ash arising from the bonfire is causing a nuisance.
For further information on bonfires, composting or recycling please contact :
Directorate of Services
South Bucks District Council
Bucks UB9 4LHTel: