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Bonfires and smoke

Advice on bonfires

There is a common misconception that there are bylaws that restrict when someone can have a bonfire and that they can only be lit at certain times, this is not the case.

Garden or domestic bonfire smoke can be very irritating and cause great stress to those who are exposed to it. The smoke could potentially contain gases and particles which can be prejudicial to health. It can also affect the environment, for example, by soiling washing hung out to dry. Smoke caused by garden bonfires could be a statutory nuisance, and people causing a serious problem may be fined up to £5,000.

If you must have a bonfire

  • Never burn household rubbish, plastic, rubber, furniture foam or tarred felt;
  • Do not light a bonfire if it is wet or windy;
  • Never leave a bonfire unsupervised or leave it to smoulder. Douse it with soil or water if necessary;
  • Avoid burning at weekends and on Bank Holidays, warm sunny days or other times when your neighbours may want to enjoy their gardens;
  • Site the bonfire so that it causes least disturbance to your neighbours; this may include taking into account the wind direction;
  • Only burn dry material, this will reduce the amount of smoke produced.

Smoke Control Areas

The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 were introduced to deal with the smogs of the 1950s and 1960s which were caused by the widespread burning of coal for domestic heating and by industry. These smogs were blamed for the premature deaths of hundreds of people in the UK. The Acts gave local authorities powers to control emissions of dark smoke, grit, dust and fumes from industrial premises and furnaces and to declare "Smoke Control Areas" in which emissions of smoke from domestic properties are banned. Since then, smoke control areas have been introduced in many of our large towns and cities in the UK.

There are no designated smoke control areas within East Northamptonshire. This means fuels, such as wood and coal, can be used so long as the smoke from their combustion does not cause a statutory nuisance to neighbouring properties. Nuisance powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are available to deal with individual smoke complaints or issues surrounding point sources of smoke.