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When are garden bonfires allowed?

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Garden bonfires and the law: What are the rules, and have they changed in light of COVID-19?

With the dark nights coming in and summer drawing to a close, you may be considering having a bonfire. Either to dispose of waste that has accrued over the summer, to celebrate bonfire night, or simply to keep you warm in the garden as the evenings get chillier, a controlled fire in your garden may seem like the perfect solution.

Specifically, there are no laws against having a bonfire in your garden. However, there are laws to protect the rights of those around you from the nuisance a bonfire may cause. In this article, we look at bonfires and nuisance laws, as well as how they may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Can I burn domestic waste in my garden?

You may not burn domestic waste from your home if it will be harmful to human health, or cause air pollution - this includes garden waste. You should compost or recycle where possible.  If you are planning to make changes to your home or garden, it is essential to consider how you might dispose of the waste in order to avoid a nuisance complaint.

Fire, smoke and health & safety

The biggest concern with home bonfires is the smoke they generate. If you light a bonfire and allow the smoke to drift on to a road, you could be fined. Such smoke could impact the visibility of drivers and become a real danger to road users.

Bonfires and COVID-19

Many concerns have been raised about the impact of bonfires as well as smoke and wood burners on public health.  There is evidence to demonstrate that smoke from burning can negatively affect the health of children and those with respiratory illness - including COVID-19, asthma and bronchitis - as well as those with heart conditions.

With people being asked to stay at home as much as possible, they should be able to make use of their garden, balcony, shared garden space and even be able to open a window without suffering the effects of fire and smoke. Many local councils have asked those in their area to be mindful of this, and not to light fires in their garden while the coronavirus pandemic prevails.

Making a complaint about smoke nuisance from bonfires, outdoor burners, firepits or barbeques

If your neighbour is creating a nuisance with their bonfire or outdoor burner, you can make a complaint to your local council. The council might issue an abatement notice' which may require your neighbour to desist from lighting bonfires, or the notice may issue specific guidance around the use of an outdoor burner. It is important to note that in order to be regarded as a nuisance, a bonfire must happen frequently, or the use of an outdoor burner must be excessive. If your neighbour fails to comply with an abatement notice issued by your local council, they could be fined up to £5,000.

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