Bonfires and smoke pollution

Coronavirus advice: Smoke and odour from bonfires can affect those who may be experiencing breathing difficulties as a symptom of coronavirus. To protect everyone's health and wellbeing while many people are spending more time at home during the pandemic we ask all residents to refrain from burning any waste in their gardens. Tips on other ways you can get rid of your garden waste can be found below.

Garden bonfires

There are no laws preventing you from having a bonfire, as long as it does not cause a statutory nuisance to other people. 

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 a bonfire could be causing a statutory nuisance if it occurs regularly and prevents someone enjoying their garden or opening windows. 

If a large fire produces lots of smoke, or is left to burn for a long period, it may still be considered a statutory nuisance, even if it is a one-off. 

Alternatives to bonfires

Bonfire smoke contributes to air pollution, and can affect the health of people with breathing or heart conditions. 

There are plenty of other ways you can dispose of your green waste instead of having a bonfire, including:

How to reduce the smoke pollution caused by bonfires

If you must have a bonfire, you can reduce the impact it will have on local air quality and those around you by doing the following:

  • let your neighbours know you are planning on having a bonfire, so they can close their windows or bring in their washing 
  • try to avoid having a bonfire when people are more likely to be out enjoying their gardens, such as weekends and bank holidays
  • only burn dry materials
  • never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light or encourage the fire 
  • never burn items which may produce toxic fumes

See also:

Bonfires on the beach

For guidance regarding bonfires on the beach please see our Barbeques page.

Commercial bonfires

We can take action if any smoke produced by a trade or industrial premises, construction or demolition site causes a statutory nuisance, as defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This can lead to a fine of up to £20,000.

If 'dark smoke' (as defined by the Clean Air Act 1993) is produced by a bonfire on an industrial or commercial premises it is an immediate offence. This also applies to building sites. 

See also:

Using solid fuel appliances

Burning solid fuels such as coal and wood is a popular way to heat homes. However, the smoke that open fires and wood burning stoves produce can pollute the air and affect everyone's health, particularly people who have respiratory conditions. 

The leaflet below details some easy ways you can help reduce the environmental and health impacts of burning solid fuels, including choosing cleaner fuels and regularly maintaining your appliance:

Further information and advice on burning wood and coal can also be found on the:

There are no smoke control areas in Adur and Worthing. 

Biomass boilers, or wood fuelled heating systems, can be a low carbon option for heating your home. All new wood heating systems must comply with building regulations, and so they must be installed by an accredited supplier:

Make a complaint about a bonfire or smoke

If smoke from a neighbouring property is regularly affecting you, we recommend speaking to them about it first. They may be unaware it is causing you a problem.

If you are not able to resolve the matter yourself the Public Health & Regulation team can investigate complaints under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Using the online form below please give us as much information as possible to help us look into the matter, such as:

  • the name of the person(s) or the company/business involved, if known
  • the address or location of the problem
  • the frequency or dates (eg daily, weekly, etc)
  • the approximate times, and how long it lasts each time
  • size of bonfire (eg in a small bin sized incinerator, or a large open pile of items)
  • what is being burnt (eg garden plant waste, household rubbish, car tyres, etc)
  • wind direction (eg is smoke heading into, or away from, your garden/building)

You can attach any additional supporting evidence, such as photos or a log sheet, when you submit the form.

Back to top

Page last updated: 17 August 2021