Bonfires and Smoke
1. Overview & General Advice
2. What can you do?
3. What can we do?
4. Taking your own legal action
5. See frequently asked questions about this subject
Apart from unpleasantness caused by smoke, ash and the smell, bonfires can be a health hazard producing toxic fumes if materials such as plastics, paint, foam or rubber are burned. They can also be a fire risk to fences and sheds.
There are several factors you should consider if you are planning on having a bonfire, or if someone is frequently having bonfires which are affecting you.
Only consider having a bonfire as a last option, and only have a bonfire if you are burning dry organic material such as garden waste. If carried out sensitively, the occasional bonfire should not cause a problem.
Many waste items can be recycled - see our recycling and rubbish pages for more information.
- If you have a problem with bonfires and smoke:
- Try to solve the problem informally, by talking to the other party.
- You could speak to us, and we may be able to help if talking to your neighbour doesn't work.
- If the problem persists, it may be an antisocial behaviour issue.
- As a last resort, we have produced a leaflet on taking your own action.
What you can do?
If you're being disturbed by a bonfire or smoke in your area, we always recommend that you try to resolve the problem informally first, before you contact us. We find most issues can be resolved informally without the need for our involvement.
You should speak to the person causing the issue and explain politely what it is that you are being troubled by, try to explain calmly how and why the issue is affecting you. You may find this difficult, but often people are unaware that they are causing a problem and will be glad to do what they can to reduce it. If you don't feel able to approach the person directly, consider using our template letter.
If you contact us we may ask you if you have tried to resolve the problem yourself first by speaking to the person before we will get involved.
If you're concerned that someone is burning something that they shouldn't, e.g. rubber, plastics or polystyrene, please report this to us.
Anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road may face a fine if it endangers traffic. Contact the police in this case.
What can we do?
If speaking to the person with the bonfire hasn't resolved the problem, you can contact us to explain what the issues are and how they are affecting you. We aim to resolve issues quickly and so we will contact the person alleged to be causing the issue to discuss and try to agree a solution informally.
If it is not possible to reach an informal solution we may suggest mediation between you and the person in order to try and resolve the issues.
We find that most issues can be resolved informally or through mediation, however the council can potentially take further formal action if it is felt necessary once other options have been explored.
Remember, if the fire is only occasional this is unlikely to be considered a nuisance, just because you can see or smell the bonfire, it may not constitute a nuisance.
Taking your own legal action
You have the right to take private legal action Take a look at our leaflet on taking your own action through the legal system.
Frequently asked questions
What shouldn't be burned?
Never burn household rubbish, old furniture, mattresses, plastic packaging, garden or household chemicals, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint. Plastics, rubber and polystyrene give off dark black smoke which is toxic and bad for the environment and for health. Try to re-use or recycle as much man made material as possible.
Am I allowed to burn garden waste?
Occasional bonfires of this nature are permitted. However, if you're having large or regular bonfires please consider that:
- you might cause a disturbance to your neighbours with the smoke and smell
- if you do, we may investigate and consider action to prohibit or restrict you having bonfires
We always advise people to use a greener way to dispose of waste, such as composting or, if this isn't possible, you can take it to a waste recycling site where green waste alternatives are available
What is a smoke control area?
Many parts of the UK are smoke control areas where you can't emit smoke from a chimney unless you're burning an authorised fuel or using exempt appliances, e.g. burners or stoves. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you break the rules. Find out more about smoke control areas.
Are there any smoke control areas in South Staffordshire?
Yes, in Wombourne, Himley, Perton and Pendeford