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Better bonfires

Help and advice about minimising smoke from bonfires.

The Environmental Protection team receives numerous complaints every year from members of the public who are aggrieved by smoke from bonfires thoughtlessly lit by their neighbours.

This can be very distressing, especially if the victim suffers from asthma or other similar illnesses.

One question often asked is what we would consider a reasonable time to light a bonfire?

The truth is that no time is reasonable.

Unpleasant smells and ash deposits can ruin your neighbours' washing and spoil their enjoyment of their houses and gardens.

Is your bonfire necessary?

Before you start your bonfire, ask yourself, is your bonfire necessary? Most garden refuse can be composted and will provide valuable humus for the garden, please see below for more details:

Don't be a nuisance

If you really must have a bonfire, the following rules may help to avoid causing nuisance to your neighbours:

  • site the bonfire away from the houses
  • check the wind so that the smoke is blown away from the houses
  • smoke which blows across a highway is an immediate offence
  • avoid lighting bonfires in damp, still, conditions as the smoke will linger longer at low levels
  • burn only dry materials which burn very quickly resulting in the minimum of smoke
  • never leave a bonfire to smoulder for hours on end as this can be most annoying.


That although there are no specific Council Bye Laws controlling bonfires, you may be causing a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act and if the smoke is a nuisance to inhabitants in your neighbourhood action may be taken against you in the Magistrates Court, which could result in a fine of up to £5,000.

See also


For further information and advice do not hesitate to contact us:

Email: [email protected] Alternatively, you can contact Environmental Protection on 01737 276417.

Environmental Protection Team
Environmental Health Services
The Town Hall
Castlefield Road
Surrey RH1 6AR