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Bonfire problems and advice

There is no law against having bonfires but it is an offence for the smoke or smell to cause a nuisance. Smoke from garden bonfires in a residential area can seriously affect people and premises. It can also contribute to local air pollution levels and in some locations, reduce visibility on nearby roads.

Nuisance

Bonfire

A single bonfire is unlikely to be a nuisance even though it may cause annoyance to neighbours. To be a nuisance, there has to be evidence about the frequency of the bonfires, their duration, the locality and how the bonfire directly affects the complainant's enjoyment of their land.

To avoid causing nuisance from bonfires, always compost garden waste, use your brown bin or take items to a household waste and recycling site.

Report a problem

It's always a good idea to try and resolve problems informally, by just politely letting your neighbour know if a bonfire has been causing a nuisance.

Medway Council only has a duty to act and take enforcement action where it can be shown that a statutory nuisance exists.

Report a bonfire or smoke problem

Advice if you're planning to have a bonfire

Remember that bonfire and barbecue parties can cause noise as well as smoke.

If a bonfire is the most practical and environmentally friendly way to dispose of garden waste (diseased plant material that cannot be composted) warn your neighbours - they are much less likely to complain.

If you have a bonfire follow these guidelines:

  • Check unlit bonfires carefully for hedgehogs before lighting as they provide an ideal refuge for hibernation. Move any hedgehogs found to a ready-made hedgehog box or somewhere dry and safe away from the fire. Before bonfire night make an alternative hedgehog home by raking up grass cuttings or autumn leaves into a pile a safe distance from the fire. Hopefully sleepy hogs will choose to snooze there instead of the bonfire. Find out more from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
  • Only burn dry material (creating less smoke). For more information regarding clean, dry wood, the "Woodsure Ready to Burn" leaflet is available.
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
  • Never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light the fire or encourage it
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening. If it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbour’s gardens and across roads
  • Avoid burning when air pollution in your area is high or very high. This information is included in weather forecasts or on the UK Air quality archive