Bonfires and air quality

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and bonfires

To help prevent the spread of coronavirus most people need to stay at home. It's important they can open their windows for fresh air, make use of their gardens and dry their washing outside.

While controlled garden bonfires are allowed, we ask that you're considerate of your neighbours and avoid doing so during the current pandemic.

Garden bonfires can cause a statutory nuisance (under the Environmental Protection Act 1990), and are often a significant source of air pollution.

They can worsen health conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Coronavirus affects the lungs and your fire or bonfire may be particularly dangerous, making symptoms worse.

Rather than burning waste, you could create a compost heap which returns valuable organic material back to the soil. You can also put garden and food waste in your brown bin.

Bonfire guidelines

If burning your garden waste is unavoidable, please ensure that you:

  • do not cause a nuisance to your neighbours
  • only burn dry garden waste
  • do not burn fresh, green plant material
  • do not burn any building material, plastic, tyres or general rubbish as this could release harmful toxins
  • 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 bonfires 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
  • check unlit bonfires carefully for hedgehogs before lighting. Find out more from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Action against bonfires

We can still take action on regular garden bonfires if the smoke can be classed as a statutory nuisance.

For this we'll investigate to find out:

  • the amount of smoke
  • how often it happens and for how long
  • how unreasonable the activity is

Please contact Kent Police if the smoke is drifting across a road and endangering motorists.

Report smoke and air pollution from bonfires

If you think there's a problem with the air around your area - such as bonfire smoke - we encourage you to speak to the person or business creating the problem.

If this is unsuccessful, you can still report it to us. However, we currently have a reduced response capacity. 

In many instances you'll be offered advice and we'll try to solve the problem by initially writing to the source of the air pollution where possible. We're keeping the service under review and looking at ways in which we can continue to operate effectively while following public health advice on social distancing. 

We're unlikely to deal with a one-off situation in a formal way unless the nuisance is particularly significant or is affecting a large number of households.

Report online

You can report an ongoing air quality problem by completing our online form.

Report a smoke nuisance online

Report by phone

You can call us to report an ongoing air quality problem:

  • phone 01634 333 333 during office hours
  • phone 01634 304 400 outside of office hours