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Domestic Bonfires can cause substantial problems to neighbours. We have produced the following information to inform you and suggestions of action you can take to minimise and avoid causing a problem.



Bonfires have traditionally been a way of disposing of waste. Recently, this method of getting rid of waste is seen as unacceptable by many people. It causes pollution and can be a nuisance to people living nearby.

What is wrong with a bonfire?


There are a number of problems caused by burning waste


Air Pollution – Burning waste produces smoke and harmful pollutants


Health Effects – The smoke has damaging health effects, particularly for vulnerable people.


Annoyance – The Council receives hundreds of complaints every year from residents affected by other peoples’ bonfires.


Safety – Bonfires can spread to fences and trees. Exploding cans are a hazard to those standing nearby.

What alternatives do I have?


Put it in your garden waste bin


The Council collects your garden waste using the green wheeled bin provided and this is taken to a local composting facility. If you have a large garden, additional green waste bins can be provided for a small one-off charge of £25.00.


Contact:  01902 696000




Take it down to your local Household Waste Recycling

Centres (HWRC)


HWRC's are run by Staffordshire County Council.  Further information can be found by clicking this link.

More details can also be found in our leaflet below.



Home Composting


South Staffordshire Residents can obtain a subsidised home compost bin. A home composter will enable you to compost uncooked vegetable and fruit waste as well as garden refuse, and it provides you with a free source of compost for your garden.


Further advice on home composting bins is available here.

What to do if you are bothered by smoke?


Initially, we recommend that you approach the person having the bonfire. They often don’t realise the problems they are causing. You may feel awkward about this, fearing a strong reaction, but people who have had bonfires often ask us why the complainant didn’t pop round and let them know there was a problem.


You could let them have a copy of this information (you can download the leaflet below). If this fails, contact the Council to report the problem. An officer will investigate your complaint and contact the

person having the fire to give advice on preventing further problems. We will not tell them who has complained.


November 5th

But I like Bonfires!


It is recognised that there are occasions where there is no alternative but to burn garden waste where it cannot be composted, e.g. very woody and/or diseased material. It is also recognised that the period around November 5th (Bonfire Night) is a traditional event where fires are lit. These are an accepted tradition, but you should still follow good practice to minimise the impact of the fire.


If you do intend to have a bonfire, it is advisable to warn your neighbours – it is much less likely to result in a complaint – and follow our good bonfire guidelines.



Bonfire Guidelines


Only burn dry material – freshly cut material causes more smoke.


Never burn household rubbish, rubber, plastic, foam (including furniture) or paint.


Avoid lighting in unsuitable weather conditions. These include:

- Damp, still days

- Very windy days

- During the night, or within an hour of sunrise or sunset (wind speeds typically drop during these periods, reducing the dispersion of any smoke)

- If the wind direction is going to blow it towards neighbours property.


Keep your fire away from trees, fences and buildings


Never use oil, petrol or other flammable material to

light a fire.


Don’t set light to a large amount of waste all at once. It is better to have a small fire, make sure it is burning well, and then add small amounts of material at a time. This will minimise the amount of smoke.


Never leave a fire unattended, or leave it to smoulder overnight - Make sure it is completely out.


Locate the bonfire away from houses to minimise the possibility of smoke affecting neighbours. Modern estates tend to have smaller gardens and your neighbours’ houses are much nearer than for older properties. The possibility of causing a nuisance is increased as a result. The advice in this situation is not to have a bonfire, in any circumstances.




Bonfires and the Law


What are the rules on having a bonfire?


There are no specific byelaws relating to when you can have a bonfire. The Council deals with most bonfire problems under the duty set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This makes it an offence to cause a nuisance and this includes “smoke, fumes or gases emitted from a premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”.


In practice fires would have to be frequent, persistent and substantially interfere with neighbours well-being, comfort or enjoyment of their property before formal action can be taken. Where trade or business waste is burnt and “dark smoke” is emitted, this is an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993. In addition, under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is illegal to dispose of waste that is not from your property, for example, small tradesmen must not burn waste from site at their home.


Finally, anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road and endanger traffic faces a fine under the Highways Act 1980. The Police deal with these cases.

Barbeques (and other garden burners)


BarbecueThe modern lifestyle is to use our gardens as an outdoor room, cooking on barbeques and using heaters (such as Chimineas) to extend the amount of time we spend in the garden. Smoke and fumes from these appliances can be the cause of annoyance to your neighbours. Use the same guidelines as above to minimise the impact of their use on your neighbours. In particular, avoid using them adjacent to areas where your neighbours are sitting out in their garden.






How to Access this Service


Residents can contact Environmental Protection Services at the following address:


Environmental Protection Services
South Staffordshire Council
Council Offices
South Staffordshire


Please contact a member of staff for specific enquiries. The links below may provide information on general enquiries.


To contact a member of staff by telephone or email, please see the details below. Alternatively, complete the online Pollution Control Form (see link below).




There are no associated costs for requesting information or making a complaint concerning air pollution.


Service Standards


We have adopted a set of standards for the provision of this service. You can find out more about these service standards by following the link below.
Service Standards




Pollution Complaint Form


Document: Garden Bonfire Leaflet


Main Contact


Environmental Protection - Air Quality

Telephone: (01902) 696000
Fax: (01902) 696222

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