as explained by
the National Society for Clean Air
and the Law It is a common misconception that there are specific byelaws
that prohibit garden bonfires or specify times they can be lit - there
a bonfire is the best practicable way to dispose of garden waste
that cannot be composted - such as diseased plant material or
tough woody waste. If only dry garden waste is burnt the occasional
bonfire should not cause a major problem. However, where a neighbour
is causing a problem by burning rubbish, the law is on your side.
Under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990, a statutory
nuisance includes "smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises
so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance". In practice,
to be considered a statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to
be a persistent problem, interfering substantially with your well
being, comfort or enjoyment of your property. If a bonfire of
industrial/commercial waste is emitting black smoke it is dealt
with under the Clean Air Act 1993.
by smoke, approach your neighbour and explain the problem. You
might feel awkward, but they may not be aware if the distress
they are causing and it will hopefully make them more considerate
in the future. If this fails, contact your local council's environmental
health department (Torridge DC 01237-428810). They must investigate
your complaint and can issue a nuisance abatement notice under
the EPA. The Act also allows you to take private action in the
NSCA Factsheet Pollution, Nuisance and the Law explains the situation
in more detail. If the fire is only occasional it is unlikely to be
considered a nuisance in law. Similarly if you are being troubled by
bonfires from different neighbours, each only burning occasionally,
a nuisance action would be difficult as there are several offenders.
In this situation encourage them to consider the alternatives - give
them a copy of this leaflet! Finally, under the Highways Act 1980 anyone
lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine
if it endangers traffic. Contact the police in this case.
Wrong With Bonfires?
Air Pollution Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it
is damp and smouldering. This will contain pollutants including carbon
monoxide, dioxins and particles. Burning plastic, rubber or painted
materials not only creates an unpleasant smell but also produces a range
of poisonous compounds. Your bonfire will also add to the general background
level of air pollution. Air pollution in the UK often reaches unhealthy
levels - do you really want to make it worse?
Emissions from bonfires can have damaging health effects. Serious harm
is unlikely if exposure to bonfire smoke is brief. However problems
may be caused for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart
conditions and children.
The smoke, smuts, and smell from bonfires are the subject of many complaints
to local authorities. Smoke prevents your neighbours from enjoying their
gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out, and reduces visibility
in the neighbourhood and on roads. Allotments near homes can cause particular
problems if plot holders persistently burn waste.
Fire can spread to fences or buildings and cans are a hazard when rubbish
is burned. Piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge by animals,
so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets.
I like bonfires...
A bonfire can be a convenient way of getting rid of a large amount of
waste, or perhaps you want a bonfire just for fun - on Guy Fawkes night
for instance. If a bonfire is the most practicable and environmentally
friendly way to dispose of dry garden waste (for example, diseased plant
material that cannot be composted) warn your neighbours - they are much
less likely to complain. Remember that bonfire and barbecue parties
can cause noise as well as smoke.
If a bonfire is the best practicable option for disposing of garden
waste, follow these guidelines and the chances are you won't annoy your
neighbours or cause serious nuisance. Only burn dry material Never burn
household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam
or paint Never use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire
or encourage it Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions
- smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening. If
it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbours gardens and across roads.
Avoid burning when air pollution in your area is high or very high.
This information is included in weather forecasts, or you can check
by ringing 0800 556677, or at http://www.airquality.co.uk
Composting Rather than burning garden waste or putting food waste in
the dustbin where it will end up buried or incinerated, a compost bin
will produce a useful soil conditioner, saving money on commercial products.
Woody waste can be shredded to make it suitable for composting or mulching;
you can buy or hire shredders and some allotment societies have their
own. If using a shredder, be considerate - they can be very noisy. Take
care not to replace one nuisance with another. Advice on composting
is available from your local authority and from gardening organisations.
following provide information leaflets on composting, for which there
may be a small charge:
for Alternative Technology Machynlleth Powys SY20 9AZ Tel: 01654
Ryton Organic Gardens Coventry Warwickshire CV8 3LG Tel: 024 7630
Household waste should certainly not be burned on a bonfire. Many items
can be recycled; find out about recycling facilities from your local
council. Garden waste should not be mixed with other household waste.
Ask your local authority what services they offer. Some local authorities
provide larger 'wheelie' bins and allow garden rubbish to go in them.
Waste can be taken to the local amenity site or your local authority
may collect bagged rubbish free of charge. Old beds and sofas and the
like are not suitable for burning - some councils and voluntary groups
collect furniture for repair and re-use.
Barbeques can also cause a smoke problem - especially if you use lighter
fuel. If the weather is still and sunny, a barbeque will contribute
to photochemical smog (this is formed in the summer, by the action of
sunlight on pollutants). Barbeques contribute to air pollution on still
sunny days. Avoid the temptation to use volatile fuels for lighting
them. Again, be considerate. If you are having a barbeque, tell your
neighbours. Don't ignite it when they've got their washing out, and
if its windy check that smoke won't blow straight into neighbouring
properties.... and keep the noise down! Find out more about reducing
the impact of your barbeque from Recycle