What the law states
There are no bye-laws prohibiting bonfires or regulating times when they are lit, however the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Highways (Amendment) Act 1986 apply nationally and can be used to control problems from bonfires.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 is the main legislation dealing with statutory nuisances.
The occasional, well-controlled bonfire would not be a statutory nuisance, but, frequent, smoky fires that interfere substantially with people’s well-being, comfort or enjoyment of their property could be.
The Council can serve an abatement notice against bonfires that cause a statutory nuisance and can follow it up in the Magistrates Court, if necessary.
Individuals can use the same law to take their own action and the Police can tackle bonfires that are causing a traffic hazard.
What Can I Do About A Smokey Bonfire?
If you are troubled by persistent bonfire smoke you can do a number of things:
- Approach your neighbour and explain the problem. This usually sorts out the situation as most people will be more considerate in the future.
- If the problem continues keep a note of the dates and times of the bonfires, as this information will be critical in proving that the bonfires constitute a statutory nuisance. It may be useful to take a photograph of the smoke bellowing out from a fire as further evidence.
Officers will need evidence to decide whether the fires are causing a statutory nuisance, you can request a set of diary sheets by emailing Community Safety.
Alternatively, you could also take your own private action using the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Contact the Clerk of the Magistrates Court directly for details about how to proceed.
Contact the police if smoke from a bonfire close to a road causes a traffic hazard.
What Are The Alternatives? How about composting?
Garden Bonfires may be fun, but they are not the most environmentally friendly way of getting rid of your rubbish as they cause pollution and local nuisance.
What's Wrong With A Good Old Fashioned Bonfire? The smoke and smell can upset neighbours, stop people enjoying their garden, opening windows or hanging out washing. Dense smoke can affect roads causing a hazard to drivers. You could be prosecuted. Bonfires also cause air pollution particularly if the waste is wet and smouldering instead of dry and blazing. The smoke will contain:
- Poisonous carbon monoxide
- Other noxious or irritating materials
- Adding plastics will create other poisonous chemicals as well as a nasty smell.
- All of these things can damage people’s health. Some groups, children, asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers and people with heart problems, are particularly at risk.
- Bonfire smoke adds to the general background levels of pollution. Is there really any need to damage our environment in this way?
Most garden and kitchen waste can be recycled into compost. A traditional compost heap or, more effectively, a modern compost bin, will produce a valuable soil conditioner, saving money on commercial products.
Woody waste can be shredded for composting or used as a mulch. Shredders can be bought or hired quite cheaply. Take care though, for safety’s sake you must follow the manufacturers instructions when using them. They can also be noisy – don’t replace one nuisance with another!
You can get more information about composting from Torbay Council’s Officer.
Household waste should not be burned on a bonfire. For a charge Torbay Council will make a special collection of bulky items. Contact Tor2 to arrange collection (01803) 207900. Alternatively you can dispose of household items and garden waste yourself, for no charge, at the Civic Amenities site at Yalberton, Paignton.
If you have a lot of rubbish to dispose of why not hire a skip. Get a quote from one of the companies in the yellow pages telephone directory.
Good Bonfire Guide
If You Still Need To Have A Bonfire:
Follow these guidelines and the chances are that you won’t cause a serious nuisance.
- Warn your neighbours.
- Burn only dry materials.
- Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint.
- Never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light the fire or to encourage it.
- Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions. Smoke hangs in the air on damp still days and in the evening.
- Avoid burning when the wind will carry the smoke over roads or into other people’s property.
- Avoid burning at weekends or on bank holidays when people want to enjoy their gardens.
- Avoid burning when the air quality is poor.
- Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder. Douse it with water if necessary.
For further advice and information on bonfires contact the Environmental Protection Team.
Produced by Torbay Council with thanks to National Society for Clean Air & Environmental Protection , 136 North Street, Brighton, BN1 1RG. Telephone 01273 326313.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tel: 01803 208025
- Fax: 01803 208854