Is it legal to have a bonfire at home?
Is it legal to have a bonfire on a business premises?
What about smoke from a chimney?
What about smoke from a barbecue or outdoor heater?
What about smoke from vehicles?
What are the legal controls?
Yes it's perfectly legal to have a bonfire at home, but you must take all reasonable steps to ensure it doesn't cause nuisance to your neighbours. A single event of a bonfire for a few hours is not usually enough to be a nuisance; it must be more than a single event and last for several hours. If the neighbour's home is engulfed in dense smoke you must put it out as soon as possible. Merely being able to see a bonfire is not enough for the Council to act on, it must actually affect you at home before we can consider action. Think, would you be happy if someone else was doing the same thing to you, if the answer is no then you probably shouldn't be having the fire.
Bonfires on trade premises must not create dark smoke or create a nuisance to anyone living or working nearby. This means it may be possible to burn clean dry material such as wood, paper and cardboard but not materials such as roofing felt, paint, rubber or plastics. As well as Environmental Health legislation the Environment Agency's waste provisions must also be complied with.
The smoke from your chimney must not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. The occasional smell of smoke from a neighbour's chimney is not sufficient to be a nuisance. The smoke must be reasonably frequent and sufficient to affect the way you live at home.
Business premises should not emit smoke for more than a few minutes at a time, if at all, but there may be exceptions. The controls over smoke from a business are contained in many different pieces of legislation.
This is unlikely to ever be sufficient to be a nuisance, simply because it is part of a reasonable normal daily life at home. A barbecue one or twice a week and the use of a patio heater burning clean wood, would not be enough to consider action by the council. If the barbecue events you hold at home are noisy, or very frequent, or you burn chipboard and painted timber on the patio heater regularly, then action to reduce the frequency and ensure that you use clean, dry fuel may be possible.
Currently Local Authorities have no powers over pollution from vehicles. Vehicles are inspected once a year for pollution as part of the MOT test. You can report smoky commercial vehicles to the Vehicle Inspectorate.
How you can report a smoky vehicle:
Full details of the vehicle will be required, these include:
- the vehicle registration number
- the type of vehicle (be specific as possible)
- the date, time and place where you saw the vehicle
- the name of the vehicle's operator eg. company or owner (if possible)
You will also have to give your own name and address (to help prevent malicious reports) which will be kept in confidence.
Who do I report the details to?
Preferably in writing to:
South Eastern Vehicle Inspectorate RTE division
Or you can ring: 020 8665 088