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Bonfires are often used to get rid of garden wastes. This can lead to smoke and fumes which may cause problems for those living and/or working close by. Smoke can interfere with a neighbour's enjoyment of their garden, put them off opening windows and hanging out washing.

Can I have a bonfire?

bonfire1There are no restrictions preventing bonfires upon private residential property as long as they do not cause nuisance to other people and the smoke does not affect highways.

Some considerations you should make when having a bonfire.

  • weather conditions
  • time of day
  • are neighbours likely to be in garden or have windows open?
  • are neighbours drying washing outside?
  • only burn dry material
  • do not burn household waste, tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint

There are some exemptions but, in general, commercial businesses including builders are not permitted to burn waste and are expected to adhere to strict government legislation regarding waste disposal.

I am being bothered by bonfire smoke

If you are bothered by smoke from a bonfire, firstly approach your neighbour and explain the problem. If this fails the Environmental Protection Team may be able to help.


Report a bonfire problem »


Alternatively email

How do I dispose of waste that I would usually burn?

These days it is not necessary to burn waste. Most areas in the district now have kerb side collection for both garden waste and recyclables. If you are a keen gardener composting is a good alternative to burning. If none of these options are suitable you will find that the Kent County Council Household Recycling Centres (Tips), will accept most waste items and recycle it.

Government Legislation

Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 refers to nuisances caused by smoke. It may well be that smoky bonfires could be a contravention of the Act if they occur on a regular basis, and prosecution may result. It is, however, the view of this Authority that most people are proud of their civic responsibility as they are of their own gardens, and will consider their neighbours before lighting a bonfire.

Further information and guidance on bonfires is obtainable by contacting the Environmental Protection Team on 01304 872428 or visit the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection at

bonfire-smokeWhat effects can having bonfire have on the environment and my health?

Air Pollution

Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp and smouldering. Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials not only creates an unpleasant smell but also produces a range of poisonous compounds. This will contain pollutants including dioxins and particles. Your bonfire will also add to the general background level of air pollution. Air pollution in the UK often reaches unhealthy levels - do you really want to make it worse?

Health Effects

Emissions from bonfires can have damaging health effects. Serious harm is unlikely if exposure to bonfire smoke is brief. However problems may be caused for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions and children.


The smoke, smuts and smell from bonfires are the subject of many complaints to local authorities. Smoke prevents your neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out, and reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and on roads. Allotments near homes can cause particular problems, if plot holders persistently burn waste.


Fire can spread to fences or buildings and scorch trees and plants. Exploding bottles and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned. Piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge by animals so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets.

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