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Bonfires and smoke problems

Smoke from garden bonfires

There are no laws prohibiting you from having a garden bonfire or BBQ. However, these fires should not be a nuisance to your neighbours. Smoke can prevent your neighbours from enjoying their garden, opening windows, or hanging washing out and reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and on roads. Our Environmental Health team will investigate any complaints made about garden bonfires that are affecting neighbouring properties. 

You can have a bonfire at any time of the day so long as it doesn't cause a Statutory Nuisance. A Statutory Nuisance is something which is stopping you or your neighbours from enjoying your land or property. For smoke to be considered as a Statutory Nuisance it must affect other premises to such an extent that normal is not possible. So, a bonfire and the smoke must be a persistent and substantial problem to affect your neighbours and their property to be classed as a nuisance.

If you are having a bonfire household waste must not be burnt on them. Burning household waste can release harmful gases and chemicals, as well as being a nuisance to your neighbours. Here are some alternatives to disposing of household waste:

  • Compost garden waste
  • Take your domestic waste to a civic amenity site
  • Get in touch with a licensed waste carrier to remove and dispose of the waste for you.

Advice on having a garden bonfire

If you decide that you are going to have a bonfire read our advice first.

  • Warn your neighbours well in advance. This will give them a chance to bring their washing in and/or close their windows and doors.
  • Make sure you have the bonfire as far away from neighbouring properties as possible.
  • Check the weather beforehand.
  • Never leave the bonfire unattended and make sure you have something to extinguish the fire if it gets out of hand.
  • Only burn dry materials, never burn tyres, treated wood or plastics.
  • Never use engine oil, petrol, methylated spirit, barbecue or lighter fluid to light your fire or encourage it.

Dark smoke from bonfires

The Clean Air Act 1993 covers certain emissions of smoke from domestic chimneys, industrial, trade and business premises. It makes it an offence to burn waste that has been produced from a trade or industrial process in your back garden as this can cause a dark smoke. The emission of dark smoke is a strict offence and you can be immediately prosecuted in the Magistrate's Court with an unlimited fine.

Waste produced during the course of normal business activity should be disposed of in an appropriate manner. Find out more information on disposal of trade waste from the government website.

If you see dark smoke coming from a trade or industrial premises (including farms) or you suspect someone is burning trade or industrial waste and causing dark smoke please contact our Environmental Health team on 01543 308725 immediately. 

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Phone our contact centre: 01543 308 000
District Council House, Frog Lane, Lichfield, Staffs, WS13 6YY

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Our main reception at Frog Lane in Lichfield is open Monday - Friday, 8.45am - 5.15pm. Our phone lines close at 5pm.