Garden Bonfires and Smoke Nuisance

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July 29, 2018

Alternative disposal

Garden bonfires produce smoke and smells, which can annoy neighbours as well as damage the environment. Garden trimmings that are still green and wet can give off lots of smoke, and materials like plastics and rubber create poisonous chemicals when they are burnt. Most garden waste can be easily composted and larger amounts can either be placed in your Green Bin and taken away providing you have arranged a Garden Waste Collection or taken to one of the household waste recycling centres in the county.


Guidelines

If you must have a bonfire to burn any waste that cannot be composted, then it is advisable to follow these simple guidelines:

  • Warn your neighbours – this gives them an opportunity to close windows and doors, remove washing off the line and they are much less likely to complain

  • Ideally burn later in the evening when people are less likely to use their gardens

  • Only burn dry material

  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint

  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions – smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days. If it is too windy, smoke blows into neighbours’ gardens and windows and across roads

  • Avoid burning when air pollution levels in your area are high or very high. You can check air quality on 0800 556677

  • Keep your fire away from trees, fences and buildings

  • Warning Never use oil, petrol or methylated spirits to light a fire – you could damage yourself as well as the environment

  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder – put it out

How do I complain about a bonfire?

There are no byelaws restricting bonfires in Wiltshire’s Area and there are no specific times of day restricting bonfires.

However if smoke is caused by a bonfire is creating a nuisance, the council has powers to take action under the provisions of the  Environmental Protection Act 1990. Private individuals can also take action through a Magistrates’ Court. If a bonfire is causing smoke to drift across a road, please contact the police.

If you are affected by smoke, we would recommend that you discuss it initially with your neighbour, as they may not realise that they are causing a problem. Always try to be reasonable, otherwise your discussions may end up in further arguments and create unwanted future neighbour tension.  Explain the details of your concern and try and agree a reasonable solution or compromise.

If the situation does not improve, then feel free to contact the Environmental Protection Team. We would ask you to fill out a smoke nuisance log sheet for two weeks and then return it to us. The nuisance log sheets are very important and the Council will not take any further action unless it has received completed nuisance log sheets from you. If the log is not returned without a reasonable explanation within 21 days the complaint will be closed.

Once we have received your log sheets a member the case officer will assess them and contact you to discuss what will happen next. We may write to the alleged offender bringing their attention to the matter and providing them with a simple guide on how to have a bonfire whilst reducing the risk of it being a nuisance to neighbours. We may also make visits in an attempt to witness the smoke. Officers will usually undertake a maximum of three visits to substantiate your complaint.  If after the three visits no nuisance has been established, the council will close the investigation.

For more information visit Wiltshire County Council’s website.

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