Bonfires and smoke

Burning waste materials can cause pollution and a nuisance to your neighbours. Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if that waste is green material such as vegetation or the material is damp. Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials creates noxious fumes that give off a range of poisonous compounds. If possible, please think about alternatives to a bonfire such as composting, using a green waste collection or a waste disposal site.

Smoke and smells from bonfires are a significant source of complaints to the District Council. Smoke can prevent neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out. Allotments near homes can cause problems if plot holders persistently burn green waste, and leave fires smouldering.

When can I have a bonfire?

There are no byelaws in Derbyshire Dales prohibiting bonfires or limiting the times when a bonfire can be lit. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, a statutory nuisance includes "smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance." In practice a fire would have to be a recurrent persistent problem, interfering substantially with neighbours' well-being, comfort or enjoyment of their property.

If you are having a bonfire, we recommend the following to minimise the risk of causing a nuisance to your neighbours:

  • Advise your neighbours before you have a bonfire
  • Only burn dry material
  • Never burn household waste
  • Consider which direction the wind is blowing, to avoid smoking blowing into
  • Neighbouring gardens
  • Never use oil, petrol or other accelerants to light a bonfire

Dark smoke

Burning some things is illegal, such as trade waste. If a bonfire of industrial or commercial waste is emitting black smoke, this is an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993.

Making a complaint

If you are being affected by a bonfire, if possible approach your neighbour and explain that you are being troubled by the smoke or smell from their fire. Most people will be glad to do what they can to reduce nuisance, informally. However, approach the matter carefully if you think your neighbour might react angrily to a complaint.

If you wish to make a complaint to the District Council, please contact our Environmental Health section.

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