There is nothing in law to say that people can’t have domestic bonfires. However, what you are not entitled to do is cause a statutory nuisance. The council receives many domestic nuisance complaints every year, and smoke from bonfires is one of the most common complaints.
Bonfires can be very annoying to neighbours and can give rise to a statutory nuisance if it is regular, prolonged or the materials being burned don’t lend themselves to a good ‘clean’ burn. The smoke, ash and smells may prevent your neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging out washing. Smoke can also reduce visibility on roads if a bonfire is not properly controlled or the wind is strong in a particular direction.
A guide to avoiding and addressing nuisance bonfires can be found at the bottom of this page.
It is an offence to burn commercial or trade waste without a Waste Exemption Certificate issued by the Environment Agency.
It is also an offence to produce and release dark smoke from fires at industrial or commercial premises.
On this page
Air pollution and health effects
Bonfires will give rise to air pollution and there are better ways to dispose of waste. However, if you do have a bonfire there are things you should be aware of which could make it more problematic and unpleasant for those living around you.
Smoke is an inevitable by-product. More smoke will be generated if the waste is damp or the waste is not organic eg plastic coated, rubber, painted materials, chipboard, MDF and other treated timber. Smoke will always contain compounds such as carbon monoxide, dioxins and particulates. Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials will not only create an unpleasant smell, but will also produce poisonous chemicals.
Air pollution in the UK often reaches unhealthy levels particularly in the summer months. For anyone suffering with existing health effects such as respiratory conditions eg asthma and bronchitis (amongst others), people with heart conditions, the young and the elderly, exposure to smoke may make breathing difficult and cause the onset of symptoms, or cause complications to those pre-existing conditions.
What are the alternatives?
Green waste collection service
We offer a green waste collection service. Customers are provided with a large, hard-wearing, reusable sack for the collection of their garden waste. This includes grass cuttings, cut flowers, hedge clippings, weeds, leaves, twigs and prunings. There is a charge for this service. Further details can be found by visiting the Further details on our green waste collection service can be found by visiting our Garden waste collection service page or by telephoning 01256 844844.
Composting garden waste
Instead of burning garden waste or putting raw vegetable waste in the bin, where it will end up buried or incinerated, invest in a compost bin. The composted waste will produce a useful soil conditioner, saving money on commercial products.
Bulky vegetation can be shredded to make it suitable for composting or mulching. Shredders can be bought or hired and some allotment societies have their own. But bear in mind that shredders can be noisy, so be careful not to replace one nuisance with another.
Waste Recycling Centre
Alternatively, green garden waste can be taken the Household Waste Recycling Centre at Wade Road, Basingstoke. It will be composted into a soil conditioner, which can be purchased. For further information and small orders visit For further information and for small orders of soil condition visit the Pro-Grow website or to place a bulk order contact the Pro-Grow ordering line by telephoning 01962 764068.
For further advice about the Household Waste Recycling Centre (the tip) please visit our Household waste recycling centre page.
Advice if you do have a bonfire
Bonfires can be dangerous as fire can spread to fences or buildings, and can scorch trees and plants. Exploding bottles and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned. Think carefully about the materials on it and where it is located.
- Do not leave a fire unattended or smouldering. Douse it with water, if necessary, to ensure it is out
- Do not burn damp garden waste, as this produces thick smoke. Only burn dry material
- Do not burn any man-made material waste, such as plastics or rubber, as this may create heavy, toxic smoke
- Do not use accelerants eg old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light the fire or encourage it
- Wait for suitable weather conditions. Still days which allow the smoke to rise straight up are preferable
- Don't light a bonfire when air pollution is high in your area. This information is included in weather forecasts, you can check by telephoning 0800 55 66 77 or check the air quality by visiting the UK Air DEFRA website
- Speak to your neighbours beforehand to agree a suitable time to have the bonfire
- Choose the site for your bonfire carefully - away from trees, fences and, if possible, away from nearby homes
- Burn in small quantities, gradually building the fire to optimise the heat and the efficiency of the burn. This will also help reduce the amount of smoke.
What about barbecues?
Barbecues can also cause a smoke problem, especially if you use lighter fuel. If you are having a barbecue be considerate and tell your neighbours. It is advisable not to light it when they have their washing out and, if it is windy, check that smoke won't blow straight into neighbouring properties. Complaints about barbeques are rare.
What to do if you are suffering due to a neighbour's bonfire
An effective way of dealing with this type of issue can be to speak to your neighbour about the problem. However if you are feeling agitated we would advise against doing so while you felt like this. Try and explain the problem calmly to your neighbour – they may not be aware of the distress they are causing. Hopefully chatting to them about it will make them more considerate in the future.
If you don’t get a positive response, aren’t happy to speak to your neighbour or the problem persists and is regular, please report it using the form below:
We will look into this for you and take action if we can. If we cannot take action, you may be able to take legal action yourself. The leaflet below details how can take your own private action against nuisances.
It is an offence under the Highways (Amendment) Act 1986 to light a fire and allow smoke to drift across the road. If you have a problem with anyone lighting a fire and allowing the smoke to drift across the road, please contact the police on 101.
Bonfires - A guide to avoiding and addressing nuisance(PDF) [113 kb]
How to take your own private action against nuisances(PDF) [163 kb]
Environmental Health team
If you have an enquiry about environmental health, send a message to the Environmental Health team