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Bonfires and smoke

Report a bonfire or smoke nuisance

The Environmental Protection Team can investigate any bonfires which are causing a nuisance by excess smoke, especially if they occur regularly.  There are no bye-laws to prohibit bonfires in East Northamptonshire. 

Under the Clean Air Act 1993, a local authority has statutory powers to control smoke from domestic and industrial sources. The legislation allows Smoke Control Areas (SCAs) to be created which place restrictions on domestic fuel combustion.  No such areas have been designated within East Northamptonshire District.

For the team to take formal action, it must be first satisfied that the bonfire smoke amounts to a 'statutory nuisance'. This means that the nuisance caused by the bonfire must affect you in an unreasonable and substantial way and be more than just an annoyance. Evidence (suitable for use in a court) will be required to support the case. There are many factors to be taken into consideration when determining if a bonfire is a statutory nuisance.

These include:

  • Time of day;
  • Duration and frequency of the bonfire;
  • Extent of the smoke coming from the bonfire;
  • Proximity of the complainant to the bonfire;
  • Your location e.g. urban/rural.

In most cases the following procedures may be followed.

An informal letter may be sent to the person responsible for the bonfire informing them of the complaint and asking them to take action to reduce the problem. You would then be asked to keep a diary noting occurrences of the bonfire that affects you - when it occurs, from where and how it affects you. If your diary shows that a bonfire nuisance may exist, an officer may visit you at a time when the bonfire occurs to make an assessment. If a statutory nuisance is found to exist, an 'Abatement notice' may then be served on the appropriate person to prohibit or restrict the nuisance. Abatement does not necessarily mean 'stop', but may instead mean 'reduce'. Finally if the bonfire nuisance continues and evidence substantiates this, the Council may take the offender to court for failing to comply with the 'Abatement Notice'.

Report a bonfire or smoke nuisance

More information

  1. Bonfires and smoke
  2. Report a bonfire or smoke nuisance (you are here)
  3. Recycling garden waste
  4. Good practice guide for operating wood burners and open fires