Restrictions on lighting bonfires in gardens

There is no law specifically banning or restricting the lighting of bonfires in gardens. However, in certain circumstances a bonfire can amount to a ‘nuisance’.

When can a bonfire amount to a nuisance?

There are two types of nuisance: a ‘private nuisance’; and a ‘public nuisance’.

A private nuisance is a continuous, unlawful and indirect interference with the use or enjoyment of land, or of some right over or connected with the land.

A public nuisance is an unlawful act or omission which endangers or interferes with the lives, comfort, property or common rights of the public. There are a number of pieces of legislation which deal with particular types of public nuisance. Where a nuisance is created under a piece of legislation it is referred to as a ‘statutory nuisance’.

Section 79 in Pt 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 states that a statutory nuisance includes ‘smoke, fumes or gasses emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance’. When plastic, rubber and painted materials are burnt, they create poisonous fumes and, therefore, the burning of such items is likely to constitute a statutory nuisance.

People are, however, expected to tolerate a certain level of irritation and inconvenience in everyday life and, therefore for something to be a nuisance, smoke must be substantially interfering with a person’s enjoyment of their property.

Under the Highways Act 1980, s161A, a person commits a criminal offence and can be fined if they light a fire and smoke from that fire drifts across a highway and someone is injured, interrupted or endangered by such smoke. If this should happen, you should contact the police.

What action can be taken in relation to a bonfire that is causing a nuisance?

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For more information on:

  • Evidence of the nuisance