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Smoke nuisance

If you are bothered by persistent bonfires that interfere substantially with your well being, enjoyment and comfort of your property then the law can intercede.

It is a common misconception that there are specific bye-laws to prohibit bonfires or control the times when they can and cannot be lit.

This is not the case and an outright ban would be difficult to enforce and occasionally, if appropriate care is taken, a bonfire may be a practicable way of disposing of garden wastes. It all depends where you live in relation to others and what you are burning. pdf icon Domestic bonfires [517kb]

If you are bothered by persistent bonfires that interfere substantially with your well being, enjoyment and comfort of your property then the law can intercede. Under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to cause a statutory nuisance as a result of smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises is an offence and we can take action to secure the abatement of such nuisance.

Where burning of waste is being carried on as part of a commercial operation this may constitute a breach of waste regulations. Waste regulations are primarily enforced by the Environment Agency. They can be contacted on 0800 807060.

What should I do if I am experiencing problems with a neighbours bonfire?

In the first instance, wherever possible, approach your neighbour and explain your problem. It may be that they are unaware of the distress they are causing and hopefully the problem can be resolved amicably. If having approached your neighbour the problem persists contact us on 314200. We will investigate your complaint and if a statutory nuisance is established serve an abatement notice on the person(s) responsible. It should be born in mind however that it is unlikely that an occasional bonfire would be considered a statutory nuisance. Similarly if you are troubled by bonfires different neighbours burning only occasionally action may be difficult.

What are the alternatives to garden bonfires?

* Composting

Rather than burning garden wastes, or other wastes, composting the wastes can provide a useful soil conditioner. Woody wastes can be shredded to make it suitable for composting or mulching. Shredding equipment can be hired from local plant hire firms. Alternatively garden wastes can be disposed of by taking to the Household Waste Recycling Centre at the refuse tip in Slippery Gowt Lane, Wyberton, Boston.

* Recycling

Household wastes should not be burned on a bonfire. Many items can be recycled via our kerbside collection and bring recycling sites. We also offer a collection service for larger items such as sofas, beds, white goods etc. A small charge is payable for this service. Should you wish to take advantage of this service then contact our Contract Services on 01205 311112 or 314200.

General advice about garden bonfires.

DO check weather conditions to make sure that smoke from a bonfire will not affect your neighbours
DO choose your site carefully, well away from trees, fences and windows. Beware of lighting bonfires on very windy days as they can easily get out of control. Remember to have buckets of water or a hose reel available just in case.

DO NOT burn damp grass or clippings or green cuttings as this creates thick smoke. Burn dry materials whenever possible.
DO NOT burn plastic, rubber or painted materials as these can create not only unpleasant odours but also toxic fumes.

DO NOT use oil, petrol or meths to light a fire.
DO burn materials in small quantities and add to the fire rather than having one large heap. It is easier to control or extinguish if problems arise.
DO NOT leave a bonfire unattended or allow it to smoulder for hours.

DO advise your neighbours before lighting a bonfire so they can be prepared for any minor inconvenience that may arise. Try and avoid burning at the weekends or bank holidays when people may be more inclined to relax in and enjoy their gardens.

DO check the bonfire before lighting for hibernating wildlife or sleeping pets.

Wood Burner or Multi Fuel Stoves


The installation of wood burning or multi fuel stoves is work that is controlled under the Building Regulations. Do not attempt a DIY installation following internet or other guidance. 

Always ensure that any person installing appliances is accredited by an appropriate installer scheme such as APHC, HETAS, or NAPIT to ensure that the work is carried out to all appropriate standards. On completion these will issue a building regulations compliance certificate and notify the Local Authority of the installation. Alternatively you must apply for Building Regulations approval from Building control. If you have installed an appliance but not followed the rules you can apply for a Regularisation Certificate from your Local Authority Building Control.

What materials should I burn on my stove?

Only use well seasoned dry wood. Woodsure is a HETAS & DEFRA scheme aimed at providing certification of suppliers that can supply dry wood fuel <20% moisture. Wet or green wood will cause unnecessary smoke and may lead to complaints from surrounding properties.  Wet wood makes for a much less efficient fire and if you can get it to light at all, the logs that are not dry provide a fire that smoulders and creates a lot of tar and smoke.  These tars can be corrosive and potentially damaging to the lining of the flue and increasing the danger of a chimney fire.

pdf icon Woodsure Ready to Burn Leaflet [210kb]

pdf icon DEFRA Guidance - Open fires and wood burning stove [218kb]

Do not burn household rubbish or plastics as these may contain harmful pollutants. Do not use treated wood products such as old fence posts or chipboard.  They contain glues and chemicals that will cause fume problems when burnt.

If you do receive complaints from neighbours, consider using smokeless fuels if you have a multi-fuel stove. Check your manufacturers' instructions and always burn the recommended fuels.

Additional advice

Particular attention should be made to installation of flue to ensure Part J of the Building Regulations are met. The height and location are critical to ensure adequate dispersion of the products of combustion and thereby reduce the likelihood of nuisance. Flues and chimneys must be swept regularly. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for servicing.

Remember that even if you follow the advice given above, if your appliance is causing a statutory nuisance you may have to stop using it.


Related documents

Size Name
[517kb] Domestic bonfires Advice on nuisance from bonfires
[210kb] Woodsure Ready to Burn Leaflet Leaflet on certification scheme for dry seasoned wood
[218kb] DEFRA Guidance - Open fires and wood burning stove A good practice guide to reducing smoke pollution from open fires and wood burning stoves

The documents in this section are in Adobe Acrobat format (pdf). You will need Acrobat Reader to view these files which can be downloaded from the Adobe website free of charge.